CG News

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NEWS

This page is for general Casa Grande city government and other city reporting by Harold Kitching, continuing what he did at the Casa Grande Dispatch for 11 years before he resigned.


(Older items are in ARCHIVES)


Initial community center design before City Council

(Posted July 2, 2015)


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


The meeting, open to the public, begins at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd. At 6 p.m. at the same location and also open to the public the council will hear an update on revisions to the city's personnel policy.



A major step toward a community recreation center is on the agenda Monday when the City Council considers a contract with Haydon Building Corp. for design services.

(The staff report is HERE.  The letter from Haydon is HERE.)

According to the staff report, "The first element in the design phase would include services through schematic design. The design agreement would then be amended to proceed to full engineering. Once the full design was completed, a construction contract, with a guaranteed maximum price would be considered. The City Council would consider the specific scope and contract at each incremental phase."

It adds that, "The scope of this agreement will develop the two conceptual layouts into design sketch floor plans/site plans including properly proportioned and scaled spaces. The sketches will also include parking, driveway, trash enclosure, fire lane, sidewalk layouts and conceptual landscape.

"For the purposes of developing a schematic design, HBC will be asked to assume that approximately 10 acres of site development is available for this project that includes the building footprint, the parking required for the recreation facility and multi-purpose open space adjacent to the building."

In other words, these are not construction plans.

During the May 6 meeting of the Parks and Recreation Board, Community Service Director Bill Schwind said an initial presentation was made to the City Council.

"Then we were asked that we basically respond to some information relative to some issues that were in that presentation when it came to, I want to say, elevation," he said, "that the City Council wanted to see a little bit more work done on the specifics of a floor plan, as well as the site plan on how how it sits, some elevated views on what that thing might sit like and look like on the property that is dedicated for the location of this building.

"So we then went to our consultant and talked to them about some programming and some preconstruction services, i.e. to get that handle.

"We do have a proposal back from them that will address that. It's a $155,000 project that deals with all of the preconstruction services needed relative to getting this facility built. 

"And we have a meeting with the Haydon construction group next week (week of 11 May) to basically strategize on getting this in front of council and see if we can get this approved."

The staff report says that the 42,000- to 45,000-square-foot center would be designed for these basic programs:

• Gymnasium (two-court divided multi-use layout).

• Cardio/stretching area/fitness/wellness.

• Walking track.

• Dance studio(s).

• Multi-purpose rooms.

• Shower/locker area.

• Activity/classroom/training room(s).

• Lobby and support spaces.

• Child watch.

• Administrative/partnership offices.

• Restrooms.

"The result of the schematic design efforts will be documenting two separate conceptual layouts that will assist the City Council in their decision toward a potential recommendation and advancement to the next step in the development process," the staff report says.


Other items on Monday's agenda include:

• Formally setting the city's primary property tax for this fiscal year at 99.99 cents per hundred dollars of assessed valuation and the secondary property tax at 63.08 cents per hundred, both the same as last year.

• An agreement with Pinal-Gila Council for Senior Citizens to continue the senior meals program.

• Purchase of 1,248 96-gallon trash containers for $61,736.

• A $300,000 contract for sewer lines cleaning.

• Final adoption of updates to the city's personnel policy. (The pertinent sections are HERE)

• Applying for a federal grant of $18,085 to help pay police overtime expenses for community policing activities.


Night work near I-10 Sacaton Rest Area continues

(Posted July 2, 2015)


The Arizona Department of Transportation issued this announcement today:


Nighttime work to continue next week on I-10 at Sacaton Rest Area


Motorists traveling on Interstate 10 in Pinal County will encounter travel restrictions following the Independence Day weekend while the Arizona Department of Public Safety continues making improvements at the Sacaton Rest Area.

The following nighttime restrictions will be in effect next week between mileposts 181 and 183 on I-10:

The right lane of both eastbound and westbound I-10 will be closed from 8 p.m. on Monday, July 6, until 5 a.m. on Tuesday, July 7.

The left lane of both eastbound and westbound I-10 will be closed from 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 7, until 5 a.m. Wednesday, July 8.

Between 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 8 and 5 a.m. on Thursday, July 9, first the left lane of eastbound I-10, then the left lane of westbound I-10, will be closed.

For more information, call Paki Rico at 520-388-4233, or email prico@azdot.gov


City reassessing how to search for police chief

JULY 2 UPDATE: It was announced today that the city is still running financial projections on how much it would cost to run the chief search and related costs if handled by the Human Resources Department versus what it would cost to hire a professional search/interviews company.


(Posted June 22, 2015)


The original announcement is HERE


The cancellation notice is HERE


Casa Grande is reassessing how it will go about the search for a permanent police chief to replace Johnny Cervantes, who resigned under fire last last year.

The city had posted a general request for proposals announcement seeking an executive search company to handle advertising of the position, initial interviews and other details.

The city has now posted another announcement saying only, "This notice is to inform all firms that the City of Casa Grande has canceled the RFP for Executive Search Services. The City has decided not to move forward with the search of a firm at this time. Thank you, we appreciate your interest in doing business with the City of Casa Grande."

CG News today asked Deputy City Manager Larry Rains if the cancellation notice means that the search is off entirely, or if Chris Vasquez, who has been acting chief with the title of interim police services manager, will be appointed without spending the money for a search.

"Neither, actually," Rains responded by email.

"We are evaluating the possibility of handling the search process internally through our Human Resources Department. If we elect to proceed with this format, there would be certain costs associated with an external search. However, they would likely be less than hiring a firm.   

"I anticipate a decision being made within the week."


May jobless rate in Casa Grande at 5.8 percent

(Posted June 18, 2015)


Unemployment statistics posted Thursday by the Arizona Department of Administration show Casa Grande with a jobless rate of 5.8 percent during May, down slightly from 6 during April. 

The statistics for Casa Grande show 1,280 people out of work during May, down from 1,299 for April. 

Casa Grande had a 3.3 percent jobless rate (555 workers) for May 2007, the year before the economy crashed. 

Pinal County had an May rate of 5.6 percent jobless (8,787 without work), down from 5.9 (9,167) during April. The county's May 2007 rate was 3.6 percent (3,898 jobless).

Other cities' May statistics are:

Coolidge

5.7 percent jobless rate for May (288 unemployed), down from 6 percent (301) during April. The May 2007 rate was 6.6 (323 jobless).

Eloy

9.6 rate for May (357 jobless), down from 10.1 (373) during April. The May 2007 rate was 5.4 (291 jobless).

Florence

4.9 rate for May (157 jobless), down from 6.1 during April (194). The May 2007 rate was 3.5 (121 jobless).

Maricopa city

5 rate for May (1,155 jobless), down from 5.3 during April (1,203). The May 2007 rate was 4 (693 jobless).

The state no longer issues statistics for incorporated areas or Indian communities.


Council approves lower trash, sewer rate hikes

(Posted June 15, 2015)


You'll find the complete agendas and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


The new utilities rates in all categories are found by scrolling down in the adopted consolidated fee schedule HERE


Scroll down to end of this story for originally proposed versus final adoption sewer and trash rates.


City utilities rates for sewer and trash that are lower than those originally proposed were approved Monday night by the City Council.

Those original proposals, discussed during a June 1 council study session, were $3 a month for sewer, bringing the monthly billing to $34.45.

The revised proposal is for an increase of $1 monthly, for a monthly billing for $32.45

As originally presented, the trash collection fee would rise by $3.50 to $23.50 monthly.

The revised increase is a $2 increase, for a monthly bill of $22.

As explained during the study session, the higher proposals were based on the desire to have funds in each utility account for vehicle replacement and other costs. Striking those proposals would mean lower increases, Finance Director Doug Sandstrom told the council.

No reductions were made in rates for the city's small water company on the west side of Casa Grande. Those rates do not affect city residents, who are served by the private Arizona Water Co.

The council also adopted next fiscal year's budget. The updated budget document is HERE. The city's property tax rates, unchanged from last year, will be officially adopted during the July 6 meeting.

Also approved was the consolidated city fees schedule with the exception of fee increases at the city airport. Those will be reconsidered at a later date. The fee schedule is HERE.

In other action, the council:

• Tabled amendments to the city's personnel policy, pending gathering further information for the council and the holding of a study session for further explanation. The staff report is HERE. Proposals for changes are HERE.

• Approved a contract for managing false fire and burglary alarms.

• Approved community partnership grants to:

Access Arizona, $75,000; Greater Casa Grande Chamber of Commerce, $43,500; Casa Grande Main Street, $39,150; Casa Grande Valley Historical Society, $34,000; Pinal County Water Augmentation Authority, $20,000; Boys and Girls Club of Casa Grande Valley, $100,000 

• Watched as Elks Lodge 1957 presented a $2,000 check to the Community Services Department for the swim lesson scholarship program. 


Boston's Restaurant and Sports Bar approved

(Posted June 4, 2015)



The major site plan for a Boston's Restaurant and Sports Bar was approved Thursday night by the Planning and Zoning Commission, which was told the complex could be open later this year.

The Boston's would be on Cacheris Court just northwest of the new gasoline station/market under construction north of Florence Boulevard.

The staff report says, "This restaurant — a chain located in approximately 400 locations across the United States, Canada and Mexico—is proposed to be 11,300 square feet in size. Of this, 9,758 square feet is the restaurant, bar, and accessory video arcade. There is also a 1,000-square-feet enclosed patio, and the remainder consisting of accessory walk-in coolers."


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/


According to a letter from the developer, the proposed use will be a sit-down restaurant with extensive menu, featuring a gourmet pizza list. The sports bar would have a full line of beverages, numerous video screens for sports games and an outdoor patio. A video arcade geared toward children would be adjacent to the restaurant.

Total employment is to be about 25 people.

Voting against was Chairman Mike Henderson, who had cited safety concerns about residents in motels south of Florence Boulevard trying to cross the busy street, which has no crosswalks or traffic lights in the area.

There have been three pedestrian fatalities just farther to the east on Florence involving people trying to cross the boulevard late at night to go to a convenience store. At least one fatality was reported to involve a person who had been drinking.

In other action Thursday night, the commission:

• Approved a conditional use permit and major site plan for separate auto salvage and plastics shredding operations on five-plus acres at 1411 N. Grant Ave. on the city's west side.

According to the staff report, "The Grant Avenue Renewal project consists of two companies providing salvage operations with two different types of products. The north portion of the property will be operated by Lock Haven LLC. Lock Haven will operate an auto salvage business. The operation involves receiving salvaged automobiles to be disassembled for parts for the purpose of reselling those parts.

"The south portion of the property will be operated by Iron Haven LLC for a HDPE (high density poly ethylene) recycling facility. The pipe will be delivered to the site then shredded into small chips. The chips will be sold to companies that process the shredded material into a new pipe or HDPE product."

A condition for both operations is that while plastics shredding will be allowed, there is to be no metal shredding.

• Approved a final landscape plan for part of PhoenixMart.

• Approved revising parking and locating an outdoor storage area at C-A-L Ranch at Florence Boulevard and Trekell Road.

• Sent favorable recommendations to the City Council for rezoning the south part of the Casa Grande Valley Elks Lodge from single-family residential to general business.


Monday's Casa Grande City Council actions

(Posted June 21, 2015)


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


The budget form schedules are HERE



The City Council took the following actions Monday night:

• With Councilman Karl Montoya opposed, adopted a tentative city budget of $175,360,200, with no increase in property taxes. Councilman Matt Herman was absent, excused.

"Adoption of the tentative budget establishes the expenditure limitation for the fiscal year," the staff report says. "The final budget may be adopted at a lesser amount but may not be increased above the limit established by this action.

"The required forms shall be published twice in the local paper as well as on the internet and council will be asked to adopt them as final on June 15."

The adoption will come after a public hearing during that meeting.

• Gave initial approval to a change in the city's personnel policy regarding paid time off.

• Gave initial approval to a $110,000 contract for laboratory testing for the city's water and wastewater operations.

• Made appointments to the Casa Grande Youth Commission. The list is HERE.

• Appointed Normal Poole and Brandi Clark to the Personnel Advisory Board.

• Watched as Mark O'Connor and Christopher Valenti were sworn in as the city's newest police officers. The two graduated from Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Training Center on May 21. A photo of the two at the graduation is posted under POLICE, above.



Maricopa-CG Highway closing, detour set

(Posted May 29, 2015)


The detour map is HERE


Pinal County issued this announcement today:


Drivers who use the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway will see work begin on the Santa Cruz Wash Crossing Project this week. 

Pinal County's contractor, NGU Contracting, Inc., plans to break ground this Wednesday, June 3, on the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway Santa Cruz Wash Crossing Project located just west of Murphy Road.  

The first phase of the work will include installing temporary storm drain culverts across the existing highway to enable construction of a temporary detour road near the wash between the existing highway and the railroad tracks.  

To install these temporary pipes, the contractor anticipates closing the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway on June 3 and installing a traditional detour around the closure on Murphy Road, Honeycutt Road, along with White and Parker roads.  

Once the temporary pipes are installed, the main highway will be opened up to through traffic. 

The contractor will proceed to construct a temporary detour road south of the highway, in addition to a new road access on Antone Street from the highway to the Ak Chin Commerce Center that will enable construction of the second phase of the work.  

The second phase of the work, or "permanent work," consists of constructing three sets of multiple barrel concrete box culverts in the wash to provide a bridged crossing for the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway over the Santa Cruz Wash. The temporary detour near the wash between the existing highway and the railroad tracks will act as the main highway as the box culverts are constructed in the wash. 

The new Antone Street connection will act as alternate access to the Ak-Chin Commerce Center and to Murphy Road north of the construction zone. A section of Murphy Road near the construction zone will be closed due to the amount of heavy equipment that will be in the area.  

Construction duration is anticipated to be between six to eight months.


Casa Grande's April jobless rate at 6 percent

(Posted May 21, 2015)


Unemployment statistics posted Thursday by the Arizona Department of Administration show Casa Grande with a jobless rate of 6 percent during April, up from 5.9 during March. 

The statistics for Casa Grande show 1,310 people out of work during April, up from 1,286 for March. 

Casa Grande had a 3.7 percent jobless rate for April 2007, the year before the economy crashed. 

Pinal County had an April rate of 6 percent jobless (9,226 without work), up from 5.8 (8,890) during March. The county's April 2007 rate was 3.9 percent.

Other cities' statistics are:

Coolidge

6 percent jobless rate for April (303 unemployed), up from 5.9 percent (295) during March. The April 2007 rate was 7.2.

Eloy

10.2 rate for April (375 jobless), up from 9.9 (365) during March. The April 2007 rate was 5.9.

Florence

6.1 rate for April (197 jobless), down from 7 during March (226). The April 2007 rate was 3.9.

Maricopa city

5.3 rate for April (1,209 jobless), the same as March (1,197). The April 2007 rate was 4.4.

The state no longer provides  employment statistics for unincorporated areas.


Fitness companies reps oppose community center

(Posted May 19, 2015)


Representatives from local fitness centers appeared before the City Council during Monday night's meeting to complain that the proposed city community recreation center would be unfair government competition with private industry.

You can view their appearance by clicking on Item H Public Comments section at http://casagrandeaz.swagit.com/play/05182015-1412.


Casa Grande is now a Purple Heart City

(Posted May 18, 2015)


The Military Order of the Purple Heart

http://www.purpleheart.org/


The resolution is HERE



Casa Grande is now designated as a Purple Heart City, honoring veterans of all wars and conflicts who were awarded the medal.

Mayor Bob Jackson read the resolution during Monday night's City Council meeting attended by many veterans.

Palmer Miller, veterans liaison case worker in the Casa Grande office of Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, told the council, "I would like to publicly say thank you to each and every one of you" on behalf "of our veterans who hold the Purple Heart from World War II, Korea and the current wars.

"Thank you again. Thank you for your continuing support. I truly want to invite you to the Memorial Day event that's coming up next week (9 a.m. Monday, May 25, at Mountain View Cemetery on Trekell Road near Interstate 8).

"I hope you'll accept on behalf of all the veterans in this community, this city of Casa Grande, because it is a great place to live and work. We thank you very, very much."

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons said to the veterans in the audience, "I really appreciate you all coming today. We are honored that you're here and to be part of this.

"I appreciate, Palmer, your leadership and the veterans community and the agencies that support veterans.

"We've been working, all of us, and we know how important this is.

"So thank you, very much. We're pleased to do this and just honor and appreciate your service to our country. 

"You're leaders to our young veterans coming up — and there's a lot of young kids coming up — and we really, really appreciate it and just your leadership in helping us to see what we can do to make it a better city to support the veterans."


You can watch the presentation and comments at 

http://casagrandeaz.swagit.com/play/05182015-1412, clicking on the Purple Heart agenda item.


Other actions


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


In other actions Monday night, the council:

Gave initial approval to another revision to the PhoenixMart planned area development.

The revisions, including a name change to NALTEC, for North American Logistics Trade and E-commerce City (PhoenixMart) are found HERE.

A previous presentation to the Planning and Zoning Commission about the requested revisions is HERE.

The complete text of the revisions is in the agenda item at the link above.

To watch the presentation, with graphics, Monday night by Planning and Development Director Paul Tice, go to http://casagrandeaz.swagit.com/play/05182015-1412 and click on the PhoenixMart agenda item.

• Approved requests from the city and organizations to submit applications to Indian communities for grants from tribal gambling revenues.

The Tohono O'odham requests are HERE.

The Gila River Indian Community requests are HERE.

The Ak-Chin Indian Community requests are HERE.

The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation requests are HERE.

(The full applications are found under the agenda item at the link above.)

• Gave initial approval to upgrading of city computer systems at a cost of $92,042.

• Gave initial approval to a contract to provide human resources information and payroll services, including an implementation charge of about $45,000 and an estimated $125,000 yearly cost.

• Gave initial approval to purchase and installation of a heavy duty truck scale at the landfill for $76,135.

• Approved final passage of the Safe Medians ordinance.

      (The ordinance is HERE)


Rapid response brought in Tractor Supply Co.

(Posted May 18, 2015)



A rapid response from city officials was probably the tipping point in bringing a Tractor Supply Co. distribution center to Casa Grande, Mayor Bob Jackson believes.

Jackson also listed benefits from the deal, speaking during the May 15 business outlook luncheon by the Greater Casa Grande Chamber of Commerce, including 270 jobs with a payroll of around $7 million yearly.

There are a lot of stories about economic development efforts, Jackson continued, "but this is one of my favorites because it's kind of a little game you play with big businesses, they look across the country and they find four or five different communities that they like and then they kind of pit the communities against each other to see who can give the best deal and they dangle this 270 jobs in front of you.

"We were out of the running for Tractor Supply. There was a West Valley city that was right in the middle of it and the CEO was in the air flying out to try to close the deal. The site selector meets him at the airport and says, guess what, our meeting was canceled. And the CEO says, well, I'm here, what do you want to do? And the site selector goes, well, you know, I'm hearing good things about Casa Grande, why don't we go down there and see what they've got."

They placed a phone call to Richard Wilke, the city economic development director, telling him the two would be in Casa Grande the next morning and that they needed to talk to people who were able to make decisions about utility service.

"Richard called APS, Southwest Gas, Arizona Water, our sewer people, our garbage people, our planning people and ended up with a meeting of about 20 people in our conference room to meet with the site selector and the CEO," Jackson said.

"That so impressed the CEO, he came back and he said, you know, if that's an indication of what you guys can do in 24 hours, maybe we need to look more closely at Casa Grande as a site.

"We made it through the cuts, the semifinals, we got down to the final two cities that were under consideration, Casa Grande and a town in Utah. In the economic development business, Utah is a formidable competitor, because Utah offers incentives far beyond anything the state of Arizona can offer.

"And I really think that is was through the tenacity of our staff that we were able to land Tractor Supply here."

Tractor Supply Co. is building the distribution center on 100 acres at the southeast corner of Burris and Peters roads to serve present and future retail stores in the Southwest. 

"I think about 600,000 square feet, plus or minus, slightly smaller than the Wal-Mart Distribution Center."

Tractor Supply is a Fortune 300 company, around since 1939.

"And they're bringing in 270 jobs, is the estimate," Jackson continued.

"I did some arithmetic last night. That constitutes  over $7 million in new payroll inside the city of Casa Grande.

Think about what that does for the restaurant business is you have another $7 million of income that wasn't here a year ago."

The decision by Tractor Supply to locate in Casa Grande has had a beneficial ripple effect with other large companies, Jackson said

"Once we landed them, several of companies said, hey, maybe we ought to look at Casa Grande, too," he continued.

"I can't talk a lot about who they are because we always have a sign a confidentially agreement with them before they come public.

"I think over the next six, seven, eight months we're going to have a whole series of announcements about new industries that are coming into town. At least that's my hope."


Initial OK for Parks Department trash truck

(Posted May 14, 2015)


The staff report is HERE



Does the Parks Department really need its own trash collection truck in addition to the regular large city ones you see up and down the streets and alleys twice a week?

That was the question when a request for the truck, at a cost of $111,016, came before the City Council during the May 4 meeting.

"It sounds to me like we're buying another garbage truck for the Parks Department," Councilman Matt Herman said. "I know it's small but don't we have big ones? It sounds like a duplication to me, overdoing. I understand the process, but it there a possibility we could utilize something else in the system now, because we are (already) doing a fleet of big, wide garbage trucks?"

There was some logic behind the request, Public Works Director Kevin Louis replied.

"If you look at where the trash cans are located throughout our parks system, our larger trucks would not be able to maneuver," he said.

"Like inside the softball fields or others?" Herman asked.

"Correct," Louis responded. "The area that this truck would go, the concrete isn't designed for that type of a (larger) weighted vehicle, so this is a much more reasonable sized vehicle."

Councilwoman Mary Kortsen asked, "And there's no way that somehow they could have those receptacles put out to a receptacle that will adjust to our regular pickup?"

Not really, Louis replied.

"Currently, the containers are placed in the parks system to hopefully provide the appropriate level of trash service so that trash doesn't get left on the ground. And they are scattered all over the parks system.

"In order to use our regular trucks, a parks employee would have to move all of those trash cans, loaded, out to a curb site, which doesn't make a lot of sense."

The staff report accompanying the agenda item puts it this way:

"The truck is needed to alleviate a two-part trash dumping method and excessive daily trips to the landfill. 

"Currently approximately 120 individual trash containers, ranging in size from 30 to 96 gallons, are manually emptied three times a week throughout our parks system. These individual containers are dumped into utility dumpsters which are then emptied into a front load system garbage truck that is taken to the landfill. 

"The addition of the new equipment will reduce the average 15 weekly trips taken to the landfill. The truck would eliminate the need for manual dumping, increasing park crew efficiency, reducing work-related injuries and reducing the amount of weekly trips to the landfill."

Initial approval by the council was unanimous. Final approval is expected during the May 18 meeting.


Oil recycling operation on west side approved

(Posted May 12, 2015)


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/



Bringing an oil recycling operation to the west side of Casa Grande was approved Thursday night by the  Planning and Zoning Commission.

It was a special meeting called after the regular meeting on May 7 was cancelled for lack of a quorum. This time only member Fred Tucker was absent.

Contrary to rumors floating around the city, the operation is not a huge oil refinery, but a recycling operation that is almost total automated using an enclosed system.

Sheffield Oil was requesting a major site plan/final development plan and a conditional use permit for the lube oil recycling facility on 4.5 acres at 148 S. Commerce Drive in the Central Arizona Commerce Park.

The staff report says, "the facility would include oil recycling processing equipment, truck loading and unloading facilities, a tank farm holding waste oil and finished product, a small parking area and two modular office buildings. 

"A permanent employee structure is anticipated to be added in approximately one year. A rail spur and pumping station will be completed on the property within 10 months of operating. 

"According to the applicant's narrative, the facility would recycle used lube oil to produce a base lube product. The used lube oil product will be received in bulk by tanker truck and the blended product is then shipped out by truck. This process will continue until the rail spur is completed and then both rail and trucks will be used."

The commission was told that at the beginning of the operation about 13 and a half trucks on average a day would be going into and out of the facility, but that would drop to eight a day when the rail spur opens.

According to the staff report, Casa Grande does not have a land use category exactly for the blending facility, settling on "oil refinery" as the closest.

 "While we recognize that an oil refinery is a significantly more intense use with a greater potential for negative impacts to a surrounding area," the report continues, "we believe that a condition of approval can be worded in such a way to limit the use of the site to that of the proposed blending facility and not actual oil refining. 

"If the applicant wanted to expand to some level of refining, a new conditional use permit would be required subject to Planning and Zoning Commission approval. 

"Staff is proposing that the operation and development of the CUP be limited to that of a lube oil recycling facility and not to include oil refining, thereby avoiding the need to mitigate any potential impacts an oil refinery could present."

Approval of the requests was unanimous.

Chuck Wright, representing Sheffield said the company is now ready to submit its construction plans to the city.


Dividing lot

The other item on the agenda was a request to divide a 32-acre lot at the northeast corner of Jimmie Kerr Boulevard and Interstate 10 into two parcels and a drainage tract.

The drainage tract is required before the Federal Emergency Management Agency will remove floodway designation from part of parcel, making it developable.

The staff report says there are no known users for the parcels.

Approval was unanimous.


Is it worth it to pave a rural gravel road?

(Posted May 12, 2015)


The staff report is HERE


Casa Grande is taking advantage of federal antipollution funds to pave a mile and a half of Midway Road, paying a city share of $120,465 for a project estimated to cost $1,290,950.

During the discussion at the May 4 City Council meeting the question from Councilman Matt Herman arose: is it cost effective to pave a rural road rather than leave it as gravel?

"What about maintenance on this over the years?" Herman asked. "It's a great value for the paving, one of our most expensive things. But how much additional upkeep do you think it's going to be with another mile and a half of road."

The answer from Public Works Director Kevin Louis was, "The way we look at it, every mile of paved road is less expensive in the long run to maintain than every mile of gravel road. Gravel roads are money pits, you put money into them and then it's a reoccurring cost. Whereas, pavement maintenance if you properly maintain it with preemptive efforts you can push the life span of that pavement out."

The Midway paving project will be from a half mile south of Gila Bend Highway to one mile north of Gila Bend.

"We were able to take advantage of these congestion and mitigation air quality funds, or CMAQ funds, because we are part of a PM 10 and PM 2.5 non attainment area," Louis said. "So we were able to apply for these funds through Pinal County and be able to use these federal funds to pave one and a half miles of our gravel roadway.

"Part of our response to the PM 10 area is we're going to target so many miles of gravel road each year and this is just an opportunity to take advantage of some federal funds. We currently are budgeting $150,000 per year for our PM 10 response."


Some descriptions:

Particle pollution (also known as "particulate matter") in the air includes a mixture of solids and liquid droplets. Some particles are emitted directly; others are formed in the atmosphere when other pollutants react. Particles come in a wide range of sizes. Those less than 10 micrometers in diameter (PM10) are so small that they can get into the lungs, potentially causing serious health problems. Ten micrometers is smaller than the width of a single human hair.

Fine particles (PM2.5). Particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter are called "fine" particles. These particles are so small they can be detected only with an electron microscope. Sources of fine particles include all types of combustion, including motor vehicles, power plants, residential wood burning, forest fires, agricultural burning, and some industrial processes.

Coarse dust particles. Particles between 2.5 and 10 micrometers in diameter are referred to as "coarse." Sources of coarse particles include crushing or grinding operations and dust stirred up by vehicles traveling on roads.


http://www.arb.ca.gov/html/brochure/pm10.htm


More pedestrian countdown signals for city

(Posted May 7, 2015)


The staff report is HERE


You see them at some of the major intersections in town, those pedestrian walk/don't walk signals that feature large numbers counting down how many more seconds you have to cross.

The City Council has approved a resolution allowing an agreement with the Arizona Department of Transportation to pay for upgrading the remaining 126 city-owned signals to the countdown feature.

During the May 4 council meeting, Public Works Director Kevin Louis also said the city will get audible signals for the four pedestrian lights at the Florence Boulevard/Arizola Road intersection and for the four on Florence at Banner Casa Grande Medical Center, across from the east entrance to Wal-Mart.. 

"They have a series of chirps," Louis said. "They try to mask the noise, but there are no residential units within the near vicinity, so we shouldn't have any issues with that. 

"That will be for the assistance of the blind," he added, noting that the request came from the Arizona Department of Economic Security.

At present, Louis said, about half of the city-owned signals have the countdown feature. As part of getting more of them, he added, the city will also ask ADOT to upgrade its signals on state-controlled streets.

The city will pay the $91,222 needed for the signal work, then be reimbursed by a federal grant through ADOT.

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons asked how long it will take for the conversions and if the intersections will be closed during the work.

"Typically, we'll work on one signal mast each time," Louis replied, "so there will be that corner of that intersection that will be down for that period of time that it is to replace that equipment.

"However, we do have staff out there that can assist any pedestrians that might want to cross the road. We do take that into consideration."

The work involves only the pedestrian signals, not the regular traffic lights, Louis added.

A completion date is unknown.

"That is anybody's guess," Louis said. "We will do this in our spare time around our normal duties. But we are going to use this as an opportunity to cross train some of our other staff in the Streets Department so that we have more people knowledgable and can respond to those types of issues.

"It could take one month, it could take four months."

Louis said his department is comfortable with the amount to be spent for the equipment.

"But with these types of agreements with ADOT we are responsible for 100 percent of any cost overruns," he added.

"We feel pretty confident it will fall within the estimated amount, as this is phase two and we know the equipment we're going to be purchasing."


Safe Medians ordinance passes first hurdle

(Posted May 4, 2015)


The complete Monday agenda and staff reports are found at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


For a story detailing the April 20 City Council briefing and discussion about the proposed Safe Medians ordinance, scroll down under COMMUNITY, above.


The full proposed Safe Medians ordinance is HERE.


A Safe Medians ordinance designed to keep people from standing on the narrow traffic dividers at intersections unanimously passed its first hurdle Monday night before the City Council.

It will be back before the council on May 18 for a second reading and if passed with the present emergency clause will become effective immediately.

Highlights of the ordinance are:

• No pedestrian may stop or remain in the portion of any roadway designed for vehicular use or in a painted or raised traffic island or median not specifically designated for use by pedestrians except to wait to cross the roadway at the next pedestrian signal or, in the absence of a pedestrian signal, when traffic has cleared or yielded.

• The first alleged violation will result in a warning to the violator by law enforcement personnel. Violations by any person previously warned by law enforcement personnel, either verbally or in writing, will be a Class 3 misdemeanor.

(Under Arizona law, a Class 3 misdemeanor is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.)

• It will not apply to persons on a median or roadway for work related to maintenance, surveying, construction, landscape maintenance, landscape improvements or other similar activity necessary for the safe and efficient operation of the city streets.

• It will not apply to emergency personnel occupying a median or roadway in response to an accident, safety hazard or other emergency situation.

The staff report accompanying the agenda item says:

"City staff has received multiple complaints about pedestrians standing on medians within right-of-ways. Promoting traffic safety is a government interest and a person standing on medians is an additional hazard that could potentially disrupt the traffic flow throughout the city. 

"Prohibiting all activities on designated medians is a means to promote traffic safety to the residents of Casa Grande.

"Medians within the right-of-way are designed to separate opposing lanes of traffic and not for the use of pedestrians. 

"Pedestrian-involved accidents account for 12 percent of all traffic fatalities and 25 percent of those fatalities occur at intersections. Prohibiting the pedestrian use of the medians will create a safe environment for pedestrians and drivers and will reduce right-of-way safety hazards."

Before the unanimous council vote, Councilman Matt Herman thanked city staff for their work in putting together the ordinance.

"It's been a long time since we first started looking at this issue," he said, "and it is high on the list of things I've talked about with people.

"I just want to thank you guys for getting it done, figuring out how to do it, because I know it's not easy to make these types of ordinances.

"I think we got it done in the right way and it will allow people to use it for the right things, like waiting there, doing maintenance, but not for the unsafe activities that are going to distract drivers and cause accidents."

Noting that passage on May 28 under an emergency clause would make the ordinance effective immediately, Councilman Ralph Varela asked how the city will make the public aware. He also asked what citations might be involved.

City Attorney Brett Wallace said steps are being taken for an information campaign.

"I know our Police Department has been working for awhile now with people who are occupying it (narrow medians) trying to identify to them the hazards that they're creating for themselves as well as the drivers.

"That information campaign has been ongoing. We will continue to do so.

"If it's passed, I'm sure we're going to place notice on the (city) website, but we're also going to work with the Police Department to ensure that during the couple of weeks that we're waiting for this thing that if they notice anyone they can tell them kind of what's on the horizon."

The ordinance requires a prior warning before a citation is issued.

"And the intent of that," Wallace said, "is simply to make sure that if someone didn't hear about the ordinance, if they were not aware that what they were doing was prohibited by our local ordinance, that they wouldn't be cited the first time.

"And for those people who are first warned and then later cited, if they are convicted of that it would be a Class 3 misdemeanor, which is our lowest level misdemeanor."

(Under Arizona law, a Class 3 misdemeanor is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.)

Wallace continued that, "The intent isn't, obviously, to try to jail people or to fine them into oblivion, but it's simply to try to make sure that we can eliminate the safety hazards that are incumbent when people stand in those areas that are not designed for pedestrian use."


Other actions:

In other action Monday night, the council:

• Gave initial approval to purchasing a small trash collection truck for the Parks and Recreation Department at a cost of $111,016.

• Gave initial approval to purchase of two replacement blowers for the sewage treatment plant at a cost of $137,518.

• Gave initial approval to spending $850,361 for installation, replacement and repairs for various equipment at the sewage treatment plant.

• Gave initial approval for purchase of two trucks with dump beds at a cost of $90,040.

• Approval a resolution for an agreement with the Arizona Department of Transportation for purchase of pedestrian count-down time signals at intersections not already having them.

• Gave initial approval to an intergovernmental agreement among the Arizona Department of Transportation, Pinal County and the city for paving of part of Midway Road.

• Approved issuing a notice of intent to raise city sewer rates and the rates for the small city-owned water system on the northwest side of town. For clarity, that is a city system, not Arizona Water Co. 

• Approved adopting the Community Development Block Grant five-year plan, the annual action plan and an analysis of impediments to fair housing.• 


Jobless rates fall in Casa Grande, area cities

(Posted April 23, 2015)


Unemployment during March dropped in Casa Grande and area cities, latest statistics from the Arizona Department of Administration show.

The state has now released percentages for January, February and March as part of recalculating jobless rates.

The new statistics, with March, (the number of March jobless), February, January, the 2014 average, and March of 2007 before the national economy crashed, are:

Casa Grande

5.9 March (1,258), 6.8 February, 6.8 January, 7.5 average for 2014, 3.9 for March 2007. 

Coolidge

5.9 (295), 6.6, 7, 7.3, 7.6.

Eloy

10 (366), 11.2, 11.8, 12.2, 6.3.

Florence 

6.9 (221), 7.7, 7.8, 8.3, 4.1

Maricopa city

5.2 (1,189), 5.6, 6, 6.5, 4.7

Pinal County

5.8 (9,004), 6.6, 7, 7.2, 4.2.

The state has now posted this notice: "Estimates for unincorporated cities and towns have been discontinued." 


Six and a half tons shredded, $1,455.05 raised

(Posted April 20, 2015)


The Casa Grande Youth Commission raised $1,455.05 during its annual Day of Shredding on Saturday, April 18.

That extra five cents?

"We found a nickel in one of the boxes," City Councilman Matt Herman said Monday night during the council's regular meeting.

The first five boxes to be shredded were free, after which a donation to the commission was requested.

"It was six and a half tons of paper shredded this year," Herman said.

The event was held at First American Credit Union on Pinal Avenue.

"I want to thank First American, who sponsors that for us and pays for the shredding," Herman, an advisor to the Youth Commission, told the council.

"The Public Works Department sent people out with two trucks, very helpful, because I remember the first year Karl Montoya (another City Council advisor to the commission) and I realized that when you shred paper it generates a lot of cardboard and someone has to take that away from there. So thank you for that."

Herman said he had received a call from the Western Pinal Association of Realtors saying that group was thinking of doing a paper shredding day, but wanted to know if the Youth Commission was still offering it.

"I said, yes," he continued. "They asked, can we help you? Of course. So we had a lot of volunteers from the Western Pinal Association of Realtors, too.

"It was a really good day and I appreciate the city's help and everyone else's help on that."

Councilwoman Mary Kortsen said she appreciated the Youth Commission holding the event "because I again cleaned out my file cabinets. The timing was so good, because it was that Saturday right after tax time."

Herman said the $1,455.05 will go to the Youth Commission's special projects fund for the Garden of Sunshine in McNatt Park.


Monday night's actions by CG City Council

(Posted April 20, 2015)


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/



The City Council took these actions Monday night during its regular meeting:

• Gave initial approval to a contract with Gallo Construction for renovations and expansion at the Dorothy Powell Senior Adult Center at a maximum cost of $209,860. The contract include a building addition for the relocation of the existing walk-in cooler/freezer, extension of the existing exhaust hood, new fryer and associated mechanical/plumbing requirements.

• Gave initial approval to changing zoning at the Powell Center and adjacent Peart Park from single-family residential to central business. The change is required before the Powell Center renovations can begin.

(Scroll down for background story)

• Gave initial approval to a $172,962 contract for roofing renovation and repair at the Public Works Department's North Operations Center in the airport industrial park.


CG staying competitive in trash collection

(Posted April 9, 2015)


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/



Casa Grande is buying more front-load trash containers to service commercial accounts in an effort to remain competitive in collection service.

There's competition to collect trash?

Yes.

It's a story that goes back to 2010 when the Arizona Legislature, at the request of large commerce trash collection companies, changed the rules.

Arizona cities under 60,000 population had been generally exempt from requirements that private haulers be allowed to solicit city customers for trash or recycling collections.

House Bill 2604, cosponsored by Rep. Frank Pratt, a Casa Grande Republican, changed that, wiping out the population cutoff. 

The text of the bill is:

"A municipality of this state shall not prohibit or unreasonably restrain a private enterprise from delivering commercial or industrial recycling services or commercial or industrial solid waste management services within or to the municipality. The municipality shall prescribe rules for the delivery of recycling services and commercial or industrial solid waste management services that promote availability of these services and promote competition in the delivery of these services."

The bill was worded to exclude residential trash or recycling collection. The companies wanted to come into cities and get contracts from large operations such as shopping malls or other commercial operations, taking the easiest and leaving the more expensive and time consuming residential collection to the cities.

That meant that Casa Grande had to become competitive.

During the April 6 City Council meeting, approval was given to purchase 37 front-load containers for $39,489.

The Sanitation Division will use the containers for commercial trash collection service.

According to the staff report accompanying the agenda item, "The majority of front load containers serviced by the city are either customer-owned or third-party leased containers. 

"The 2009 solid waste rate study recommended the city provide its own front-load containers to customers to improve the city’s ability to retain and expand commercial front load accounts. The purchase of the requested containers is part of our phased plan to meet this goal. 

"City ownership of the containers will provide immediate service benefits and allow the Sanitation Division to fully compete with private trash haulers for commercial service accounts."

Public Works Director Kevin Louis told the council that, "There'll be a variety of sizes, from two yards up to eight yards to meet the specific needs of each customer.

"With this purchase, it'll bring us to about 43 percent ownership in the city with the containers that we service today."


Initial OK for PhoenixMart fire study extension 

(Posted April 6, 2015)


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


Initial approval was given Monday night to extending a contract for fire safety oversight of plans for the proposed PhoenixMart main building.

What's at issue here is the massive size of the building, some 1.7-million square feet of floor area.

That size is not covered by city fire and building construction standards for its occupancy classification or standard exiting requirements. That necessitated hiring of a specialist to review PhoenixMart's plans for how to fight a fire there and how to safely evacuate those in the building, estimated to be 38,000-plus people at full occupancy.

In May of last year the City Council approved a $64,000 contract with JensenHughes, which since June of 2014 has had personnel working with city staff in reviewing performance-based design documents submitted by Phoenix. With final approval, the council action Monday night extends that contract at a cost of $36,000.

The cost of both contracts has been more than covered by a payment from PhoenixMart, Planning and Development Director Paul Tice told the council, meaning that taxpayers do not have to cover it.

"To prove the safety of their building design, the architects and fire consultants for the PhoenixMart project have submitted a code analysis that details the standard prescriptive building and fire codes that are not being met and the alternative design and construction standards they propose as equivalent replacements," the staff report accompanying the agenda item says.

"They have also submitted a smoke model report that models the anticipated air quality and fire behavior conditions that theoretically would occur with a building fire. This model is intended to prove that the alternative design and construction standards will allow all occupants (38,000+) to exit the building safely in the event of a fire. 

"This performance based design approach is allowed under the alternative means and measures provisions of the building and fire codes."

Tice told the council that, "I'm asking for this extension of the contract for an additional $36,000 because I don't want to be in a situation where I'm halfway through the review of the building permit and we're out of money and I have to come and wait 45 or 60 days delay.

"So, it's just sort of get ahead of the curve here and ask for essentially a contract extension that we may or may not use this money, depending on what happens as we move into the final review of the building permit and the other documents and reports associated with the performance based design exercise."

Councilman Dick Powell said, "When a project is being built compensation that would come back to the taxpayers is well in excess of the figures we're talking about at this point in time. Is that a correct statement?"

Tice replied, "That is correct.

"Even more so, there's two fees that we charge with review of building permits. One is a plan review fee and the other is the building permit fee. 

"The plan review fee is intended to cover our staff costs in reviewing the plans, which is the stage we're in right now.

"PhoenixMart did pay, in the last fiscal year, a plan review fee of $164,000, so they've already paid enough to cover our total expense."

Tice added that, "When we issue the building permit, they will pay an additional $250,000 fee, which is going to be intended to cover our total inspection cost on that project.

"So, essentially it's a user-based fee and in addition to that the city will realize economic benefit from the project, absolutely."

Powell said, "I wanted to let you make people aware of that fact."

Final approval of the contract extension, because it is classified as an ordinance requiring two hearings, is expected during the next council meeting.

The staff report adds that PhoenixMart has submitted building construction drawings in anticipation of obtaining foundation and structural permits.


Powell Center rezoning goes to City Council

(Posted April 2, 2015)


The staff report is HERE


A favorable recommendation was given Thursday night to a request to change zoning for Peart Park and the Dorothy Powell Senior Adult Center to allow the center to expand.

The action by the Planning and Zoning Commission sends the request to the City Council, which has final say on zoning issues.

Following a presentation by City Planner Laura Blakeman there was no discussion. No one was in the audience for public comment.

The background of the story is that the Community Services Department wants to build an addition onto the Powell Center and remodel the existing kitchen to allow relocation of an existing walk-in cooler and freezer.

The devil is in the details of the present zoning requirements.

Some history:

The area has been a part of the city since it was annexed 100 years ago, going through two changes of zoning.

In 1964, the majority of Peart Park was zoned as public and quasi-public, the staff report says, adding that the ramada and playground area of the park and the Powell Center were zoned as R-2 (two-four family dwelling) and R-3 (multiple family residential). 

In 1987, the entire site was rezoned as R-1, or single-family residential. 

The Powell Center has been classed as a legal nonconforming use.

The R-1 zoning district permits a "public/quasi-public building and uses" with approval of a conditional use permit, but the site has never received one.

Approval of a conditional use permit requires that the buildings are set back from the property lines by 50 feet. The Powell Center does not meet that requirement, plus an expansion of a legal nonconforming use requires the property to be in compliance with the city codes.

The staff report says that, "Because the existing building cannot meet the 50-foot foot setbacks, staff has determined that a zone change to B-3 (central business) would be the most appropriate process. The B-3 zoning is an appropriate zoning district according to the 'community center' land use designation of the General Plan 2020. 

"The B-3 zoning district should be expanded to include Peart Park and the Dorothy Powell Senior Adult Center, which are considered in the downtown boundary. 

"Staff has determined that the zone change request is reasonable, as the B-3 zoning district allows 'public buildings' as a permitted land use and the Dorothy Powell Senior Adult Center building would be in compliance with the setbacks."


Library internet, other council actions Monday night

(Delayed posting because of problems at website host company)


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/



Tripling the speed of internet at both Casa Grande libraries was approved Monday night (March 16) by the City Council, which also gave initial approval to updating equipment at both buildings.

According to the staff report accompanying the agenda item, the current wireless in place in both libraries is in need of an update, with equipment outdated and insufficient to meet increasing demand.

An upgrade would cost $7,920 a year but the city is eligible for federal assistance covering 90 percent, lowering the cost to $792 yearly, covering management and maintenance by Cox Business.

A separate agenda item was to triple the internet speed at both libraries, now at 10 mbps. 

According to the staff report, the city pays $675 per month per library for 10 mbps service, or $16,200 yearly. 

Tripling the speed could cost $910 a month per library, or $21,840 a year. The 90 percent federal assistance would cut that to $2,184 annually.

In other action Monday night, the council:

• Delayed until a later date consideration of buying seven 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe patrol vehicles at a cost of $226,622 plus $93,493 for outfitting them.

• Gave initial approval to revised off-street parking regulations. The changes will not affect present businesses unless they are enlarged or the building use changes. The changes are HERE.

• Gave initial approval to revisions of the Santa Cruz Crossing planned area development at the southeast corner of Trekell and Rodeo roads. Details are HERE.

• Gave initial approval to changes in the Marabella planned area development. Details are HERE.

• Appointed Joyce South to the Historic Preservation Commission and reappointed Garrett Powell and Michael Reid to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.


City wants to divert even more from landfill

(Posted March 12, 2015)


You'll find the full request, including landfill tonnage charts, at

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/files/2013/04/Complete3.pdf


Casa Grande is seeking a contractor to build a facility that "will increase the city’s overall landfill diversion rate to 75 percent or greater, create jobs, maintain a cost-neutral expense to the city, reduce emissions compared to current processes and protect and educate local communities."

According to the request, "the proposer shall design, construct and operate a facility that will mechanically and biologically separate the city’s entire residential and commercial waste stream into sellable recyclables, process the city’s wastewater treatment facility biosolids and process organic wastes into sellable products. 

"Proposer will also be responsible for the marketing and sale of all products."

The deadline for responses is April 24. 


Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant plan approved

(Posted March 5, 2015)


These actions were taken Thursday night by the Planning and Zoning Commission:


• Approved the major site plan for a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant at 859 Promenade Parkway at the Promenade mall.

The restaurant is planned for 6,000 square feet with inside seating for 240 people. It was earlier announced that an outdoor covered patio would add 1,028 feet but Thursday night that was revised to 973 SF.

Most of the site is now a dirt lot.

According to the staff report, "The remaining portion of the lot has already been improved with landscaping, light poles, parking and sidewalks. Per the proposed major site plan/final development plan, the building is to be placed over the dirt pad with additional landscaping added. The westernmost row of parking spaces is proposed to be removed to accommodate the building’s placement."

The commission was told the operators hope to open by August.

• Sent a favorable recommendation to the City Council on a request to rename PhoenixMart as NALTEC (PhoenixMart) and make other minor changes in the planned area development north of Florence Boulevard two and a half miles east of Interstate 10. P&Z  5 March 15NALTEC stands for North American Logistics Trade and E-commerce City.

• Approved a request for a conditional use permit to allow a model home sales complex within Mission Valley.

• Approved a request to change setback requirements in the Fairways planned area development.


Contract approved for cafe at city's airport

(Posted March 2, 2015)


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/



It's not well known among the Casa Grande public, but the city airport terminal has a small cafe area.

The airport has been providing some food service with its pancake breakfast series held the last Saturday of each month from 8-11 a.m., offering pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage, orange juice and coffee for $8.

The problem over the years has been trying to find someone to operate it on a regular basis.

The first step toward that was taken Monday night with unanimous approval by the City Council of a one-year contract with Foxtrot Cafe, a local business.


The contract is HERE


"During the recent terminal renovations at the airport, the area that has been used for preparing the food for the monthly pancake breakfasts, the Copperstate Fly-in, and a few other events held at the airport was renovated to create a more efficient and functional space that could meet the needs for a food vendor to operate a snack bar/café type venue," the staff report accompanying the agenda item says. 

"The ultimate goal of this café is to provide an added benefit to airport patrons by creating a comfortable space where they can grab a bite to eat, take a break from their long flight, or in the case of the members of the public, sit and enjoy the food while watching the planes take off and land or wait for someone that might be flying into Casa Grande. 

"The café space is approximately 665 square feet that includes enough seating to accommodate up to 22-24 people. Seating will also be available on the terminal's 1,900-square-foot outdoor patio."

Finding an operator has been a long, sometimes frustrating process.

"For several years airport staff has tried without success to find a vendor to operate a snackbar/café at the airport," the staff report says. 

"This current effort involved sending out a request for qualifications to local food businesses as well as advertising it in the local papers hoping that the new renovated space would attract a business to get a café up and running. The city received no responses. The main reasons that this has been so challenging is that the current traffic, both aviation and walk-in, is such that a business that would have to hire employees to staff the café don't feel like it is a risk they want to take. 

"However, continued efforts to find a possible business led to conversations with Amber Downs who has over 13 years of culinary related experience, including working in several local restaurants. After meeting with Ms. Downs several times and sharing with her the vision of the airport and the opportunity that the café would represent, she ultimately agreed that this was something that she was interested in."

The staff report says the agreement with Downs calls for the café to be open at least from the time that the terminal is open through lunch time Monday through Friday and from 8-11 a.m. on the last Saturday of the month for the fly-in breakfast. 

"During its hours of operation," the report continues, "they will be responsible for maintaining the café space in a clean and safe environment. The menu will focus on foods that require only warming, cooling, or finishing on site, (i.e., salads, sandwiches, pastries, coffee and juices) as opposed to foods that need to be fully cooked or grilled. In addition, Ms. Downs will be responsible for obtaining all county health related authorizations and meeting all health code regulations. 

"In order to ensure the best possible chance for success, the agreement will not require any compensation from the café for the first three months, but for the final nine months of the initial agreement the city will receive 15 percent of the net profit generated by the café.

"The city will be responsible for all utility costs generate during the operation of the café business. 

"After the initial 12-month term, the use fee will be renegotiated based on the profitability of the café."


In other action Monday night, the council:

• Accepted a $122,626 grant from the Arizona Department of Homeland Security to be used for Police Department participation in federal border security operations, including overtime, employee expenses and mileage reimbursement.

• Approved requesting a state grant of $250,000 for owner-occupied housing rehabilitation and authorizing spending $64,000 as the city's contribution.

• Adopted a Community Development Block Grant participation plan.

• Renewed the city's membership in the Greater Phoenix Economic Council at a cost of $29,232.


Lower flood insurance rates in county areas

(Posted Feb. 26, 2015)


Pinal County issued this announcement today: 


The Board of Supervisors was pleased to learn on Wednesday that Pinal County achieved a remarkable starting classification of "7" on its first ever acceptance into the Community Rating System (CRS) through the National Flood Insurance Program.

The CRS was designed by the National Flood Insurance Program to voluntarily encourage a comprehensive approach to flood plain management. The goal is to make communities safer from flooding and to lower insurance costs. The scale is rated from 10 to 1. The lower your rating, the lower flood insurance costs are for residents in that area. 

"The way the program works is that if your community is rated a '10' then there is no discount for your community," stated County Manager Greg Stanley. "For every point you rise, there is a five percent decrease in your flood insurance costs.  Pinal County, achieving a classification of '7' will mean residents in the unincorporated areas who live in a special flood hazard area can receive a 15 percent discount." 

The new classification rating will take place on May 1 of this year.

"We have been working to get into the CRS program since Flood Plain Administration moved under Public Works back in 2007," Stanley said. "Public Works has this program in their strategic business plan, and has continuously plugged away at this for several years. Normally when they take you in to CRS you start at Class 9, but we will be starting at Class 7." 

Pinal County's Flood Control Section Chief Elise Moore said the seven years of researching, cataloging and going over old building permits was time well spent to get the high classification. 

"This was truly a team effort," Moore said. "Everyone from the Board to Greg Stanley to Public Works and Community Development worked long on this process. In the end, the result was a good classification." 

The special flood hazard areas are spread throughout 372 square miles of unincorporated Pinal County. Many of those areas are located next to the three major rivers in the county: the Santa Cruz, Gila and San Pedro.


Chevron on North Pinal to become a Circle K

(Posted Feb. 18, 2015)


Circle K Stores is in the process of buying the Chevron station on North Pinal Avenue, turning it into a Circle K outlet, the City Council was told Tuesday night.

Kim K. Kwiatkowski, an employee and liquor agent for Circle K Stores, said the company will spend about eight months remodeling the Chevron location at 2382 N. Pinal "and make it kind of look nicer."

When that is completed, the company intends to close the present Circle K just to the south at 2246 N. Pinal, he said.

He said the company is going ahead with plans to construct at 4,500-square-foot store at McCartney Road and Tucker.


Initial approval for McCartney, Florence signals;
light at Jimmie Kerr/Sunland Gin still planned

(Posted Feb. 18, 2015)


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


Initial approval was given Tuesday night to a $562,911 contract for traffic signals at East Florence Boulevard/North Camino Mercado and West McCartney Road/North Casa Grande Avenue.

The approval by the City Council was unanimous, with final approval expected at the next council meeting.

It was pointed out that the Florence/Camino Mercado signals were selected to replace planned signals this year at Jimmie Kerr Boulevard and Sunland Gin Road.

Public Works Director Kevin Louis said design delays caused the switch.

"It was originally programmed in this year as one of our two signals," he said, "but because of the delays that were created when we have to go through the design process with Union Pacific Railroad it added approximately six months to that design process.

"We're currently in that process but we're not going to have it designed or constructed in this year, so we moved forward with this other signal."

Louis said the signals at McCartney/Casa Grande Avenue will be the standard frame design.

"It's going to look very similar to the other signals that we're installed of late," he said. "It meets our typical standard.

"The south side of that intersection will ultimately be moved. It will be constructed in a location that when that roadway widens to its ultimate width those portions of that signal will have to be pulled out and removed, but we don't see that happening in the near future, so the signal should last for quite awhile."

Louis noted that although the staff report accompanying the agenda item made reference to an earlier traffic survey finding that Florence/Camino Mercado being in the top four intersections for signals, that was not quite the case.

At the time, he said, Florence Boulevard signals were controlled by the Arizona Department of Transportation.

"The Camino Mercado was not part of that list, because it wasn't a city signal (area) at the time we did that study," he continued. "We subsequently added that and it does rank in the top four now, but it's not part of that original report, so a little error there."

Development at Florence/Camino Mercado has added to the need for a signal, Louis said.

"The new development of the CST convenience store at that corner is going to generate additional traffic and further congest that area," he continued, "so this signal is one staff feels very important to get done as quickly as possible, as well as the one at Casa Grande Avenue."

It had earlier been pointed out that a traffic signal on Florence at the entrance to the Cracker Barrel would not be practical because it would be too close to the signals on the Interstate 10 overpass.

The contract is being let through cooperative use with contracts let by the city of Peoria, speeding up the process. 

"By using this job order contract, we're going to eliminate from six to nine months of time," Louis said. "If we went through the traditional design/bid/build process it would have taken that amount of time. 

"We're hoping to get this done before the start of next year's school at the end of this summer, so that's staff's goal."

Both signals will have lighted street signs, Louis said.

"It's not part of this item, but we are looking at a program of adding more of those throughout the community, that is our standard," he told the council. "We do think it enhances the safety at those intersections and helps  clear up some of the confusion."

According to the staff report, "The city street system in the vicinity of the McCartney Road/Casa Grande Avenue intersection experiences severe congestion during peak traffic periods due to traffic related to nearby schools. This congestion causes backups and delays in traffic, resulting in safety issues and concerns. The proposed traffic signal at this intersection is expected to enhance traffic safety, provide gaps for entering and turning traffic, and minimize current congestion issues.

"Similarly, the city street system in the vicinity of the Florence Boulevard/Camino Mercado experiences considerable congestion at frequent intervals throughout the day, resulting in significant safety issues and concerns at this location. 

"New development on the north side of the intersection, including the CST convenience store, will further exacerbate the safety issues and congestion being experienced in the corridor. The proposed traffic signal at this intersection will mitigate the effect of current and proposed traffic and enhance traffic safety in the area."

The cost for Florence/Camino Mercado will be $302,440 for both design and construction, with CST development paying 25 percent, or about $75,000.

Louis said during the council meeting that CST has already paid that amount to the city.

Construction of McCartney/Casa Grande will be $260,471. Design work for that signal had been previously completed at a cost of about $28,000.


In other action Tuesday night, Paul F. Zalewski was appointed to the Planning and Zoning Commission, replacing Dr. Joel Braunstein, who resigned.


Tractor Supply Co. retail store in CG approved

(Posted Feb. 5, 2015)


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/



Tractor Supply Co. received approval Thursday night from the Planning and Zoning Commission to open a retail store on Florence Boulevard.

The company is already building a West Coast distribution center on the west side of Casa Grande.

The 21,702-square-feet Tractor Supply store with a 15,000-square-feet fenced outdoor storage and display area will be at 1988 E. Florence Blvd. That location is south of Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort, between LA Fitness and Henness Road.

The complex will include a 6,675-square-feet outdoor merchandise display area in front of the store. There will also be a 1,250-square-feet hay forage shed.

A representative told the commission that work should begin within a month.

According to its website, Tractor Supply Co. is "the largest operator of rural lifestyle retail stores in the United States. The company operates nearly 1,400 retail stores in 49 states, employs more than 21,000 team members and is headquartered in Brentwood, Tenn.

"The typical Tractor Supply store has 15,000-24,000 square feet of inside selling space with a similar amount of outside space used to display agricultural fencing, livestock equipment and horse stalls. 

"Stores supply the unique products to support their customers' rural lifestyle, from welders and generators to animal care products and men and women's workwear. You can also find pet supplies, animal feed, power tools, riding mowers, lawn and garden products and more."

Information about Tractor Supply stores is at

http://www.tractorsupply.com.

In other actions Thursday night, the commission:

• Sent a favorable recommendation to the City Council on a proposal to change city code requirements for off-street parking for outdoor sales areas, restaurants, cafes, bars, retail stores, swap meets and flea markets.

(The proposed changes are HERE)

• Sent a favorable recommendation on a request for changes in the Marabella planned area development, located south of McCartney Road near when Palomino Parkway intersects. The proposed changes are realignment of Henness Road, removing commercial land uses and providing new lots sizes and dimensions.

• Sent a favorable recommendation on a request for changes in the proposed Santa Cruz Crossing development at the southeast corner of Trekell and Rodeo roads. They include adding an assisted living facility, providing development standards for previously approved commercial and residential areas, identifying an area for independent-living patio homes, adding a two-story senior apartment building and providing additional details about a frontage road along the north side of Rodeo Road. Flood control drainage would be left as is rather than rerouted.

• Approved a request to add 10 floor plans for single-family homes on 113 lots in Mission Valley.


Monday night's actions by CG City Council

(Posted Feb. 2, 1015)


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


The Casa Grande City Council took these actions Monday night:

• Gave initial approval to spending $652,528 for a new pumper truck for the Fire Department, replacing a 2001 model that has had more an more mechanical problems that have led to $175,107 in repairs last year and has been out of service for more than 75 days during that time.

• Gave initial approval to spending $196,471 to outfit eight new police cars with emergency equipment, expected to take about 60 days.

• Gave initial approval to spending $74,499 for First-In Alert Systems for fire stations at Florence Boulevard and Florence Street, Peart Road at Eighth Street and at the city airport. In brief, the equipment automates sending out of emergency fire calls. The same system was installed in the fire station on East McCartney Road when it was built in 2011.

• Gave initial approval for a $85,464 contract for preliminary and final design for the upgrading of Taxiway E at the city airport.

• Gave final approval to reorganization of the Finance Department.


Finance Department reorganization approved

(Posted Feb. 2, 2015)


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


Staff report outlining Finance Department changes is HERE



Final approval was given Monday night for an ambitious plan to reorganize the Casa Grande Finance Department, tightening up on oversight and working toward resolving billing classification issues.

The latter is expected to bring in more money for the city where misclassifications have meant lower charges than required. Informal quick audits within the department have found such errors, the council was earlier told.

The request for an ordinance had been discussed during the Jan. 20 council meeting, but ordinances take two readings, or hearings, to pass. Monday night's final action was taken under the consent agenda, items that are passed at one time and with no discussion unless requested by a council member or someone in the audience.

During the Jan. 20 meeting, Finance Director Doug Sandstrom told the council that his proposed reorganization was based upon "the changing needs of the city, the complexity of our finance system and the requirements of external audits."

He said those audit requirements are from the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, known as GASB,  and another known as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, or GAAP. "We as a Finance Department have to make sure that all of our finances match up with the rules of all of these agencies," he said.

Sandstrom said brief summaries are:

• Changing needs of the city: "Those are those auditing standards, technology advances, people want more information from the numbers that we have. Transparency, both for council, for citizens, for staff," he said.

"We've got all this information, we've got to make sure that it accurately reflects what our finances are and that we can go into it and present it in a way that's meaningful to people."

• Complexity of the finance system: "Our finance system has 86 separate funds, everything from our General Fund, Highway User Revenue Funds, utilities funds to improvement districts funds, community facilities districts funds," Sandstrom said. 

"It's all sorts of different types, different restriction on our money. So the more funds we have, the more complexity that we've got in there and we've got to have the appropriate staffing to make sure that the money's being spent for the right things, tracked appropriately and then reported out appropriately.

"In addition to our main finance system, which is our general ledger, we also have subsidiary ledgers such as our utility billings system, our community development system, Parks and Rec. We've got all these different methods that money is coming into our system and all of those have to be reconciled, balanced and managed on an ongoing monthly basis."

• Audits: GASB and GAAP come down with changes every year," Sandstrom said, "and then every year we have an outside auditing firm that comes in and does overview of our financial system."

Problems have been found for the last three years, he said, classified as "material weaknesses."

Sandstrom defined material weaknesses as "a deficiency or combination of deficiencies and internal controls, the things that we're supposed to manage and control, and those deficiencies are great enough that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of the executed financial statements will not be prevented, detected or corrected on a timely basis.

"So it's not that there's fraud happening and not that there's stuff happening. It's just that there's a likelihood that we're not going to be able to catch some of the issues in all those interrelated related funds."

Sandstrom said the past three year material weaknesses were:

• "In fiscal year 2012 it was due to long-term debt reconciliation, where the debt that we reporting in our financial statement didn't match what was reported from our lender.

• In fiscal year 2013, there was a reconciliation issue with our bank statements and the cash on hand. They weren't balancing out. At the end of the day, the bank had more cash in it than what our financial system showed. The sheer volume and complexity of the system had gotten beyond us.

• For the audit for fiscal year 2014, which will be presented at the Feb. 2 council meeting, we've got an item on there for a utility account reconciliation. Again, it's that the amount of money that was shown owed in our utility system was different than that was shown in our general ledger. You have to have a process and system in place to reconcile those on a monthly basis to make sure we're doing what we're supposed to be doing."

Sandstrom said the Finance Department now has 12 full-time equivalent employes, including  a supervising accountant, an accountant, three senior account clerks and three account clerks.

He pointed out that "that the system that we currently have in place is highly dependent on clerks, which is the lower level positions that are absolutely necessary to getting the work done.

"And that's what we are doing in the Finance Department. We're getting the work done, we're processing it.

"But what we do not have the capability to do is to take that time to think about why we're doing it, what improvements we can make, what we can do to change, automate and so on."

With two retirements from the department, Sandstrom said, it offers the chance for "some changes that have minimal impact on our existing staff and then also to make some changes that will have an immediate, positive impact on our core services."

The department would still have 12 staff, he said, but one of the senior account clerk positions would be upgraded to an account manager, with a large increase in pay. 

In addition, Sandstrom said, one supervising accountant would be downgraded to senior accountant. "That position's still going to do some very high level accounting and then also be responsible for supervision over our account clerks," he said.

"The position will have absolutely no change in current pay. The top out is just going to be a little bit less.

"The accountant that I've got currently I'm going to shift over to have concentrate solely on utility billing; on utility billing, on utility reconciliation, on doing audits of our utility accounts. 

"That's something that I've been dabbling in over the last year, and just some very quick and simple audits have made differences where we're going to see collecting tens of thousands of dollars more because of the way accounts were inappropriately classified within our system. Having somebody that can be able to have the time and the ability and the knowhow to go through and do that should increase some of our revenue.

"And having an accounting clerk in there as well, because at the end of the day you have to have those crucial elements that are actually getting the work done."

Councilwoman Mary Kortsen said she hopes that if billing misclassifications are found notifications to the person or business will be handled properly, "because there's nothing worse than someone to say, gee, I'm classified as this and now they're telling me this.

"I guess my concern is that as that comes down and it is legitimate the notification is handled  in such a way that says you have been reclassified and here's why and that kind of thing and if you have any concerns or whatever that they have someone that they can kind of vent to and ask questions of."

That lesson has been learned, Sandstrom said.

"One of the ones that I've went through again in the last six months is our multifamily billing rate for wastewater," he continued. "The code is set up and it reads as 'more than three' units. And we've had up to 100 accounts that have two units, three units that we've being charging the multifamily rate, which is approximately $19 a month (per unit), instead of the 30-some dollars a month (for three units or less).

"One of the lessons we've learned was when we've went and identified some issues and did backfilling we had letters out that said you were misclassified, you now owe us three years of backfilling, here's your bill, $6,000. 

When people get something like that in the mail they're not too happy when they come in.

"What we did the second go around was, this has been identified as an issues, here's what it looks like, here's the person that you can contact to talk through it, at such and such a date we're going to start implementing that.

"So, putting that thing in place so that people do have that level of contact that they can come in and talk through it. We're human, too, and make mistakes, as well. Sometimes, there's a legitimate reason they're classified the way they are."

The reorganization will have no initial additional personnel costs, Sandstrom said, because of vacancies. Going forward, he added, it will mean "about $50,000 more when you look at the pay range of that accounting manager  to a senior accounting clerk. But I do think with the efficiencies that are going to be gained, in the long run we're going to be raising revenues and have a lot of operational efficiencies."


Casa Grande Fire Capt. Phil Emmett dies

(Posted Jan. 25, 2015)


The Fire Department issued this announcement:


CGFD personnel:

It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you of the death of Capt. Phil Emmett.  

Capt. Emmett passed away Saturday at 6:51 p.m.  

Capt. Emmett was off duty and details on what happened are not available. 

Funeral arrangements are pending at this time, however, a formal announcement of the arrangements and the department’s participation will be made, within the wishes of the family.


Scott R. Miller

Fire Chief 


UPDATE: The Fire Department issued THIS press release


SECOND UPDATE: Services ANNOUNCED

THIRD UPDATE: An account for Capt. Emmett's family has been established at the Pinal County Federal Credit Union. 

Contributions may be made at any of the six branch locations in the county. 

Fund information:

Captain Phil Emmett Memorial Account

Account No. 88731

Contact information regarding contribution is Ann Wiberg at 520-381-3089.

CG jobless rate 6.7% -- others in area up, down

(Posted Jan. 22, 2015)


Unemployment during December dropped in Casa Grande while other area cities were up and down, latest statistics from the Arizona Department of Administration show.

Casa Grande had a jobless rate of 6.7 percent during December, down from 7.1 during November. 

The statistics for Casa Grande showed 1,434 people out of work during December, down from 1,536 for November. 

By contrast, Casa Grande had a 4.7 percent jobless rate (808 people out of work) for December 2007, the year before the economy crashed. 

Pinal County had a December rate of 7.1 percent jobless (10,263 without work), down from 7.2 (10,544) during November. The December 2007 rate was 5 percent (5,672 jobless).

The state has now posted this notice: "Estimates for unincorporated cities and towns have been discontinued." The site refers users to outdated federal census statistics.

Other area cities' statistics are:

Coolidge

6.7 percent jobless rate for December (323 unemployed), down from 6.9 percent (332) during November. The December 2007 rate was 9.2 (471 jobless).

Eloy

11 rate for December (448 jobless), down from 11.3 (461) during November. The December 2007 rate was 7.6 (424 jobless).

Florence

8.1 rate for December (262 jobless), up from 7.7 during November (250). The December 2007 rate was 5 (177 jobless).

Maricopa city

6.5 rate for December (1,348 jobless), up from 6.2 during November (1,269). The December 2007 rate was 5.7 (1,009 jobless).


Final OK for Burruss Park tennis courts rehab

(Posted Jan. 20, 2015)


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


Final approval of a complete rehab of the two tennis courts in Burruss Park was given Tuesday night by the City Council.

The request had been discussed during the Jan. 5 council meeting, but ordinances take two readings, or hearings, to pass. Tuesday night's final actions as taken under the consent agenda, items that are passed at one time and with no discussion unless requested by a council member or someone in the audience.

Although the request was only for Burruss Park tennis courts, the discussion on Jan. 5 also branched into pickleball.

The Burruss work, at a cost of $60,757, will repair cracks in both courts at the park over two weeks, including crack filler, acrylic resurfacer, court striping, caulk control joint at the next line, a TitanTrax shield and replacement of nets and net posts.

TitanTrax Shield?

The staff report accompanying the agenda item describes it as "a cost-effective crack repair system that is installed over the entire court. Similar to a synthetic overlay system, TitanTrax is coated with a simple acrylic coating system or cushion coating system which gives the court the feel and appearance of a traditional all-weather hard court. 

"The TitanTrax Shield is a thermally and dimensionally stable multi-ply fabric designed for cracked tennis courts. The shield is unique in that it is a repair fabric which is applied directly over the entire cracked asphalt or concrete tennis court pavements instead of just over an individual crack on the surface. 

"The TitanTrax Shield is applied as an unattached membrane over the entire court surface. A simple color surfacing or built up cushion surface can then safely be installed on top of the shield without the fear of new cracks. The underlying pavement is protected from the elements, so the chance of any further deterioration is limited. 

"In the event a problem does occur below the shield it can be removed and easily replaced after base is repaired. TitanTrax Shield comes with a five-year warranty."

During the Jan. 5 discussion, Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons, noting the "cushion surface" description, asked if the finished work would look like a regular court, "not one of those carpet kind of tennis courts."

Community Services Director Bill Schwind replied that, "Once the membrane is put down and put the acrylic finish on it it'll look just like every other tennis court."

Although the work is expected to take about two weeks, Schwind pointed out that, "It does take temperature into consideration. Nighttime temperatures cannot get below 46 degrees, so we're looking probably late February, early March before we can step forward with this."

Higher demand is being placed on courts across the city park system, Schwind said, especially with the pickleball fad. This could be another opportunity for multi use, he added.

Councilwoman Mark Kortsen said she welcomes the rehab work, noting that several years ago the city closed some of its tennis courts.

At that time, the explanation was that cities across Arizona and the nation began building tennis courts when that was a fad, but that had tickled off over the years, leaving courts either empty or rarely used.

The discussion then branched into pickleball.


What is pickleball?

http://www.usapa.org/what-is-pickleball/


Mayor Bob Jackson said that during conversations with Schwind, striping of the pickleball courts at Dave White Park was discussed.

""Originally we were hoping to have this contract take care of that striping issue," Jackson said. "Is that going to happen with this contract?"

Schwind responded that, "We will be talking with them to see if we can't use some of the funds allocated in this year's capital improvements project budget to be able to address that situation over at Dave White."

Jackson said he has received emails from people that play pickleball at Dave White.

"I know Bill has provided netting but there's no striping," he said. "They wanted to put permanent striping down."

Striping for multi use is often a problem, Schwind said.

There are two tennis courts at Dave White Park and the basketball, all acrylic surface," he continued. "They're  all playing on the same surface but the lines typically are a problem.

"What we didn't want to do, we didn't want to infringe on the tennis court folks, because lines are important when you're playing ball. If you've been to a normal gymnasium these days where they try to do badminton and everything there's all different colored lines going al different directions and it's somewhat confusing.

"We tried to utilize what we had out there and make some pickle ball lines on the tennis courts in a little bit different shade, not white, just offset the shade of the body of the tennis court to allow pickle ball players to be able to utilize the tennis courts when they're not used.

"That works, but we left out the back line because it's too close to the service line of the tennis court and it just was rather confusing.

"Now the pickle ball demand is such that when no one is using the basketball courts out there they want three more pickle ball courts, or could use three more pickle ball courts on the basketball courts. We provide the netting but there is no lines. They're out there now with chalk doing their own lines, but they would like to see something permanent."

Jackson added, "Unfortunately, it's not a matter of just going out with a spray can and spraying the stripes on there, There needs to be some care given, not only to the pickle ball courts but also the other people that use it, the tennis players, the basketball players or whatever."

Perhaps the city needs to look at expansion, Councilwoman Mary Kortsen said.

"We're all saying everybody needs to get out and move and that sort of thing, so perhaps start looking at the possibility of building more courts," she continued. "I know a lot of these courts are used by people my age and that that need to stay active, so I wouldn't mind at all if you start taking a look and see what we have in the next five years or a projection on that."

Zach Wilson, speaking from the audience, told the council that along with the Burruss tennis courts work, he would like to see signs saying the courts are for tennis only, "not roller blades or bikes or anything like that, because the reason those courts are in such bad shape, or one of the reasons, is that you've got groups of guys that come out and start to play hockey and they take the nets down and they put up like goals and that's really tearing up the courts. By the time they're done, the courts are all chipped up from the wheels. 

"I'd hate to see the city spend all this money just to have it destroyed by people who aren't using it for what it's designed for."

Jackson said signs could be placed.


Other Tuesday night actions by CG City Council

In other action Tuesday night, the council:

• Gave initial approval for purchase of 200 300-gallon trash containers at a cost of $54,490.

• As part of the Finance Department reorganization, gave initial approval of an ordinance reclassifying some positions and changing the titles of others.

• Gave local approval for a liquor license for a Buffalo Wild Wings at 859 N. Promenade Parkway.

• Honored Mary Ann Gonzales upon retirement from the city Finance Department after more than 25 years. (See story and photo by clicking on COMMUNITY, above.)



Right of way allows sewer project to begin

(Posted Jan. 5, 2015)


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


Somewhere along the line when the sewer line from a lift station was built on the west side of town no property easement was obtained, stymying a new project to construct a reliever line.

That will be corrected to allow the McMurray Relief Sewer Project to go forward, the City Council decided Monday night.

The property in question is now occupied by Rusty's Body Works on VIP Boulevard, the staff report accompanying the agenda item says.

As background, the report says the existing gravity sewer line on VIP Boulevard from Gila  Bend Highway to West Main Street is now at full capacity to handle already developed properties. The relief line is needed to allow future development of vacant parcels.

"To provide this capacity," the report continues, "staff has designed a gravity sewer which will be constructed within the alignment of West McMurray Boulevard between VIP and Burris Road. This sewer would divert flows from the southern portion of VIP westerly to the existing 36-inch sewer in Burris Road, thereby providing relief to the existing sewer in VIP. This project will also allow an existing sewer lift station to be decommissioned."

During the process, it was discovered the easement problem was discovered.

"It would appear the existing sewer line from list station 3 east to VIP was originally constructed without the benefit of an easement or right of way," the report says.

"In order to construct this relief sewer project a permanent easement must be obtained along a portion of McMurray Boulevard, as there is no existing right-of-way or easement. A temporary easement to provide access for construction is also required. These easements required cross a single commercial parcel. Legal descriptions and exhibits for these easements have been generated by a registered professional surveyor." 

The report says the cost to acquire that easement would probably be less than $5,000.

It adds that The in-house design of the sewer reliever has been reviewed by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and approved for construction. The work will be done by Haydon Building Corp. as part of its contract for the Gila Bend Highway Sewer Interceptor Project.


In other action Monday night, the council:

• Gave initial approval to a $66,000 contract for rehabilitation of 20 hangars at the city airport.

• Gave initial approval to spending $87,207 for demolition and replacement of decking at the city swimming pool at Brown Avenue and McMurray Boulevard.

• Gave initial approval to a $60,757 contract for complete cracks repair on the tennis court in Burruss Park.

• Gave initial approval to purchase of a street sweeper at a cost of $227,251. It will replace a 2007 model sweeper with 9,881 hours of use and which saw annual maintenance costs climb by $8,511 last year.

• Watched presentation of an award for the Life on Main master plan.


Annual city report, City Beat now available

(Posted Jan. 5, 2015)


The city issued these announcements today:


Annual report

The city of Casa Grande is 2014 Annual Report is now available.

It highlights some of the major projects the city accomplished during 2014 and also includes a summary of the financial activities of the city, drawn from the 2014 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report and annual budget.  It contains information only from selected funds.  

It is our goal to provide a means of communicating the financial operations of the City in an easy to understand financial report.


DOWNLOAD 2014 ANNUAL REPORT



City Beat Newsletter ~ January/February 2015


The January/February 2015 edition of City Beat is now available online. 

In this issue you will find information about:

• Parks and recreation events and classes.

• Casa Grande receives best master plan award.

• Main library open house.

• Leadership Academy.

• And much more.


You'll find it HERE


City Council approves two agreements with APS;
attention turns to better street lights, lower costs

(Posted Dec. 25, 2014)


What began as City Council consideration of streetlight and pole usage agreements with Arizona Public Service Co. branched into discussion of how or when streetlights could be upgraded and what could be done to cut municipal electricity costs.

At one point, the city and APS had a joint agreement covering costs for powering streetlights, the cost per APS pole for attaching lights and maintenance of the lights. The council was told that APS now longer wishes to be part of the maintenance agreement.

The first contract was a renewal of the electricity cost for each streetlight, which will be $2.79 each per month, or a total of $10,047 monthly for the 3,601 lights the city owns. (For the purists or those who love math, the energy charge is $0.06088 per kilowatt hour.)

A question from Councilman Dick Powell was, "Is there anyone else that we would have got a competitive bid from or is this pretty much an APS project?"

The answer from Public Works Director Kevin Louis was, "They are definitely a sole-source provider for that energy."

Of the lights the city owns, 169 are on poles belonging to APS, rented at $7.32 per pole per year, or an annual cost of $1,237. That was the second agreement approved.

"What that agreement does is it allows us to utilize any pole that they authorize within their system to attach our streetlight system to so it doesn't require us to put a separate pole in the ground if there's already a pole in that location," Louis said.

The streetlights maintenance agreement with APS has expired, Louis said, adding that the utility will help maintain the system until the city finds a private contractor. Louis said the city is seeking a contractor and has been discussing conversion to LED lighting.

Powell said conversion to LED lighting would be the least expensive of options for future electricity costs. He also asked if other cities are going to solar power.

"We currently do have some solar streetlights within our system in some of our parks," Louis responded. "We did do a pilot program.

"However, I don't know if I can sit here and tell you that I would recommend going in that direction. The technology, I think we will be there in the future but right now there's that unknown with the battery backup power for that."

Councilwoman Mary Kortsen said that during a conference she attended vendors were showing different types of street lighting fixtures, including LED.

"It's not just the cost saving in electricity, it's the cost saving in bulbs," she said. "They showed 20 years versus whatever we're getting now and there's also labor costs now in replacing bulbs.

Mayor Bob Jackson said he agreed with comments about LED lighting, "but if we've got 3,601 streetlights, or whatever the number ends up being, that is a huge dollar undertaking to get there, so it wouldn't happen overnight."

That cost of changing over the bulbs and the infrastructure is the major consideration, City Manager Jim Thompson said.

The maintenance contract proposal, including the possibility of LED conversion, is still a couple of months away from being brought to the City Council for consideration, he added.

"The other front that we're working on," Thompson continued, "is in a standard for any new development that occurs, so when a builder comes in and they build a new subdivision area that we make sure that standard is what we desire to have.

"Because of the costing difference between the LED, solar and our traditional way of lighting, they're a pretty substantial increase, so there's going to be a burden borne by the developers when they come in and develop their projects, but then our future cost to the taxpaying public for paying the fees to maintain those lights will be less."

A system of alternating street lights, or some on and then off, has also been looked at, along with other ways of lighting and lengthening the time before a bulb burns out, Thompson said.

"With some of our lights now,," he added, "we actually put shields on there. LED allows us to light more directly than traditional lighting, as well, and so we could eliminate some of those additional costs."

His office intends to put together a full package, he said, "and look at what is our best course in the next probably 10-year window because technology is changing so fast and those costs are changing with that technology. But I think in a couple of months we'll be ready to come full circle back to you and have those discussions on the third portion, which is the maintenance. That's where our largest cost of providing the service is and we are looking at third-party vendors rather than the traditional way we've done that."

Any plan also has to include Electrical District 2, Thompson said, which serves east of Interstate 10 and has some pockets in the city on the west side of the interstate.

"In this case, we have to engage in discussions with them and the certain standards associated with their operations that occur. This use agreement with APS is the majority of our lighting but not all."

Jackson said any changeover in lighting types would be similar to back in the late 1980s or early 1990s when streetlights were converted from mercury vapor.

"At that point," he said, "the cost savings for the electrical more than offset the capital cost, but I don't think that you're going to see that with LED. LED lights are much more expensive and the energy savings is much less."

Kortsen said she would like to see a comparison of lighting types, projected out for five and 10 years, including how long bulbs last before they have to be replaced.

That is being looked at, Thompson replied.

"We're also looking at city of Phoenix," he continued, "which did different test projects throughout their entire downtown where they installed different types of lighting for multiple purposes, be it for safety, for brightness, for traffic. 

"There's a whole host of things that they looked at, as well as the cost, the maintenance and wear and tear on the structures themselves. Depends on what you put. If you're talking solar, you've got battery packs and then you've got a larger structure, you're taking up more room, you may get into sidewalk impairments and other things. 

"So there's a whole bunch of issues you consider when we're looking at our complete package. But we will be looking at the five, 10, 15 and 20 year, the LED light expectancy, we'll go out that far.

"Unlike before when we did the conversion it may be a five- to seven-year payback, but then we have the back end of that, the 12 to 13 years where we have basically an improved cash flow that what we would have today if we continue to the path we're on."

Powell asked if any changeover would be for the power receptacle or if only the bulb would be changed.

"There are some options, but we'll probably be changing out the heads," Thompson said. "We believe the entire portion on the top is not just a lightbulb that you screw in or screw out as many of us would see at home. There's a different scenario. Many times you have a whole bunch of small bulbs that you would be changing out. There's not much weight difference. There's some other challenges sometimes on some of the poles because they're not designed specifically for the type of light they use. We see no problem with our poles right now with all the products that are available.

"But like everything, when we talk to vendors each one has their own specific design. You may have to buy different adapter kits or other things associated with which type that's out there, so we want to minimize that. That's part of us looking at our standards that we currently have for any new subdivisions. 

"Granted, we have 3,601 lights now, 169 on APS poles, some on ED2's. But 20 years from now we could have 10,000 lights out there, we just don't know and we want to make sure whatever standard we establish is most adaptable to what we see coming in the future, as well.

"We're not quite sure what we'll end up with. Some require more work than others, but for the most part we believe we won't be replacing poles."

A timeline would also have to be established.

"We haven't finalized that yet," Thompson said, "but we may say doing 20 percent of the system a year over the next five years would be the most cost-efficient analysis. We're just not sure what that is yet. It may be 100 percent up front, with savings on the back end. We'd have capital costs up front and we also have to be cognizant of our street fund budget (which also covers streetlights) and some of the challenges we've had there and as we will continue to have because the Highway user Revenue Funds funds aren't growing any, which is one of our lead funding sources for streets."

The HURF funds come from the state, which has been cutting back on its distribution to cities.


November jobless rates in CG, area cities rise

(Posted Dec. 18, 2014)


Unemployment during November rose in Casa Grande and in other area cities, latest statistics from the Arizona Department of Administration show.

Casa Grande had a jobless rate of 7.1 percent during November, up from 6.6 during October. 

The statistics for Casa Grande showed 1,530 people out of work during November, up from 1,397 for October. 

By contrast, Casa Grande had a 4.3 percent jobless rate (808 people out of work) for November 2007, the year before the economy crashed. 

Pinal County had a November rate of 7.2 percent jobless (10,552 without work), up from 7 (9,985) during October. The November 2007 rate was 4.6.

In the past, statistics from the state included unincorporated areas and Indian communities.

The state has now posted this notice: "Estimates for unincorporated cities and towns have been discontinued." The site refers users to outdated federal census statistics.

Other cities' statistics are:

Coolidge

6.9 percent jobless rate for November (332 unemployed), up from 6.6 percent (314) during October. The November 2007 rate was 8.4.

Eloy

11.3 rate for November (461 jobless), up from 10.9 (436) during October. The November  2007 rate was 6.9.

Florence

7.6 rate for November (247 jobless), up from 7.2 during October (229). The November 2007 rate was 4.6.

Maricopa city

6.2 rate for November (1,272 jobless), up from 6.1 during October (1,238). The November  2007 rate was 5.2.


Can anything be done about street striping fading
out in the glaring sun? Short answer: Not much

(Posted Dec. 17, 2014)


You'll find the full agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


The map of streets to be striped is HERE


The question comes up almost every time the City Council considers a contract for street striping: Is there something that will make the lane stripes stand out when you're facing into the glaring sun?

Short answer: Not much.

The council gave initial approval Monday night to a contract for up to $200,000 for striping maintenance, paid for from the county half-cent sales tax for highways. Final approval is expected during the next meeting.

The contract calls for maintenance of center and edge lines, turn lanes, stop bars,  turn arrows and some crosswalks.

As Public Works Director Kevin Louis explained it, "On average we replace the striping on our streets every three to five years, depending on the type of material we use. If we use a water-based paint we're going to do that more often than if we used the different epoxy type paints that are out there."

Areas with heavier wear are done more often, he added.

As she has done in the past, Councilwoman Mary Kortsen asked if something could be done about poor striping visibility when "the sun is so fierce in your eyes," pointing out Florence Boulevard and Cottonwood Lane as examples.

"Is there some kind of striping available that is a little more visible?" she asked.

Louis replied that there are certain times of year when visibility is not the best. That is caused by reflectivity standards that are required in the striping, or how bright they are at night when using vehicle headlights.

"Unfortunately, when you get that sun at that critical angle it's very difficult," he said. "The challenge is, the only way we've found we can combat it is clouds, and you can't count on those in Arizona."

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons asked if all crosswalks would be striped, adding that Cottonwood Lane has several crosswalks that need work.

"We do the crosswalks that are needed," Louis replied, which is why crosswalk work is included in the contract.

Crosswalk work is also often done by the Public Works Department, Louis said.

"We do some of that in-house, we do have our own striping equipment," he added. "We just don't do the long lane line type striping. Some of that we do in-house, some of it is part of this contract."

Initial approval of the contract was unanimous.


John Ellsworth named deputy city magistrate

(Posted Dec. 15, 2014)


John Ellsworth, elected as Casa Grande justice of the peace in the last city election, has been appointed to a four-year term as deputy city magistrate.

The action came under the consent agenda, items approved with one vote and no discussion, during Monday night's City Council meeting.

The staff report accompanying the agenda item says, "To facilitate partnership with Pinal County Justice Courts, city Judge (Christopher) O'Neil maintains an appointment as a justice of the peace pro tempore. Although it is very rarely necessary, this arrangement allows Judge O'Neil to cover hearings as a visiting judge, as a courtesy, when needed and when it does not conflict with other duties. 

"The City Council has already granted the presiding magistrate the authority to temporarily appoint justices of the peace as deputies to hear specific cases or calendars when the Casa Grande City Court's regular deputy magistrates are unavailable or have conflicts, which allows the Pinal County justices of the peace to return the favor. Such cooperation helps to avoid unnecessary expenses for pro tempore judges for both city and county taxpayers.

"Given the existing resolution allowing the presiding magistrate to appoint justices of the peace as deputies under limited circumstances, this requested resolution would have little impact, except that John Ellsworth's appointment would take effect before he takes office as justice of the peace. 

"This brief window of time before he takes office will offer him a unique and valuable opportunity to become acquainted and experienced with the processes of the Casa Grande City Court in case he is ever asked to sit as a visiting judge on a conflict case."


New O'Reilly Auto Parts store plans approved

 The original O'Reilly plan, left, called for  the building to be set back 80 feet from  Florence Boulevard. It will now conform to  city regulations at 15 feet, right.

(Posted Dec. 4, 2014)


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/



The major site plan/final development plan for a new O'Reilly Auto Parts store in front of Lowe's next to Eegee's was approved Thursday night by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

It was the continuation of the request from the Aug. 7 meeting at which it was pointed out that O'Reilly did not want to conform with city regulations for location of buildings.

The site is in what is known as Community Center land use designation, which calls for -- in short -- buildings to be closer to streets, such as in the old downtown area, rather seeing the strip mall effect by setting them far back.

The city wanted the building set back 15 feet north of Florence Boulevard, O'Reilly wanted the distance to be 80 feet, with parking areas between the store and Florence.

O'Reilly has since decided to follow the Community Center 15 feet guidelines for the one-story, 6,972-square-foot building.

In other action Thursday night, the commission:

• Approved a conditional use permit for a 70-feet cellphone tower at the rear of a self-storage company at 517 N. Colorado St.

• Approved the major site plan/final development plan and landscaping plan for a 3,100-square-foot Casa Grande Family Dentistry office at 1569 E. Florence Blvd., east of Fiesta Blvd.


Initial approval for Evergreen Irrigation levy;
stop-gap work has cut water flow about in half

(Posted Dec. 2, 2014)


Scroll down for earlier story with staff report, maps and other documents



Initial approval was given Monday night to a "one-time" city ordinance change that allows users in the Evergreen Irrigation District to pay 50 percent of the cost of repairs to the system earlier this year rather than the 100 percent called for in the master ordinance.

It was also brought out during the City Council meeting that the stop-gap repairs are not perfect and have cut the volume of water available by about half, even though users are still charged $14.50 an hour for irrigation.

The reason given was that damage and wear in the well and equipment was extensive enough that full repair would have cost more than the $60,000 maximum earlier approved by the council. Final cost of repairs to the electrical, pump and well casing components was $52,997.95.

Under the one-time ordinance change, the 26 users remaining in the district will be assessed $1,019 for the repairs, payable over a year. 

During the discussions, former City Council member and now county supervisor Steve Miller, along with his wife, Laurie, said there are still problems with the system, leading to frustration in the irrigation district, which was opened in 1928.

"I really do appreciate all the effort that has been done by the city," Steve Miller said, "but I want to air just a couple of things, because there is some frustration within Evergreen that should be brought forth to the council.

"It's mostly the flow of the water. I think there is still some question as to how come we don't have the same amount of flow or at least very similar.

"I would like to see if there is any way we can address that at some level. Either get the pump company back and really validate what we did there and see what the maximum flows are that we can get out of there."

In addition, Miller said, there is no use schedule.

"I didn't have any water from Oct. 3 until today (Dec. 1)," he continued, "and all I did was get water in my backyard.

"I think we need to focus on a point guard, somebody that's in charge that knows the system and can take care of the system and contact homeowners. If I'm to get water on a particular day and my valve's not open, ask him to open the valve or come open the valve.

"I don't care which way we do it. We just need to come up with a solution as to how to go about it going forward with the program.

"I'm willing to stay on, I'm willing to pay my share at this point in time, but I think we need to iron out a few of the issues."

Laurie Miller thanked the city for its work, given that irrigation is needed to help maintain the appearance of the Evergreen Historic District.

"Like Stephen said," she continued, "I think those who are on it that are users are really frustrated with how the process has gone. Not that we don't appreciate everything the city has done, but it's not gone real simply, it's not working real smoothly and and we've lost people off it that were diehard irrigation people and now they've left.

"And all of it has to do with the flow and because of the cost. We realize the cost has gone up significantly, just the hourly cost has. And then we don't get water like we're supposed to. So I'd say that is just a level for frustration."

Mrs. Miller continued that, "We would really like to do our own irrigation. We did it for 30 some years, never had a problem. I accounted for every hour, every minute we had the water, we took care of it, we put money into it ourselves, didn't even ask the city for help. 

"And I know there's other people that are on the system that can't do the irrigation themselves, for whatever reason, and they're willing to have the irrigator do it."

Steve Miller said part of the problem of no water when it is supposed to be flowing into yards is that "they couldn't get through the schedule in time without having someone do it on the weekend and some people take it on a certain date."

Councilman Matt Herman said the water flow issue has been discussed during council committee briefings. "It's something that definitely know that's a challenge and we're trying to address."

As he did during an earlier discussion, Councilman Karl Montoya asked if there is a plan to address future maintenance, operation and scheduling.

"Do we have a master plan for the irrigation district?" he asked "Have we come up with some sort of process to get there?"

Community Services Director Bill Schwind, who is overseeing the process, responded that there have been discussions with Public Works staff about the condition of the well.

"It has a series of components within it," he said. "We did take video footage of the entire well system. It's not in the greatest of shape.

"That will all have to be addressed. It will take a little bit more planning on our part, to kind of feel out the long term plan of how we succeed with this particular well."

Schwind said the well is registered with the Arizona Department of Water Resources as being 268 feet deep.

"It's in two series, basically," he said. "There's a 14-inch section and a 12-inch section and video shows that those are in a condition that aren't premier, I would say."

Schwind pointed out that when the council was asked for contingency money for repairs the limit was set at $60,000.

"Our contractor knew that," he said, "so we basically, the best option that we had at the time to stay within that financial range was to simply put the 10-inch casing inside the the 14- and the 12-inch and utilize that with a submersible well.

"I'm not a farmer, I can't tell you if that's the right way or the wrong way to go. But from an engineering perspective, that's what we were led to believe, as well as the professionals in the field."

Schwind said that during a staff meeting he likened it to having a straw in a drink. If it's a 12-inch straw you will get more flow than if the size is smaller.

"For years," he continued, "that well was registered at 500 gallons a minute and currently we are still using that same registration with ADWR; however, this submersible well has been pulling 250 gallons a minute at the moment.

"So when they do say it's taking longer to get water into their, it's costing $14.50 an hour, they're absolutely right. It is taking a little bit longer to get there. Are we delivering water? Yes, it just takes a little longer to do it.

"The well's functioning as it exists right now, but the condition and age of the system, that really needs to be completely evaluated."

Montoya said he still would like to see money set aside for the future.

"I'd like to see some kind of planning behind it," he said, "and say, hey, look, maybe you pay a little bit more but it goes into a maintenance system to where there's a kitty there that's going to pay repairs. We know it's not going to last forever."

Schwind said he would take direction on what to do, "something that we address, pump fees, schedule, timing or those types of things to take a look at where we're going with that. I'd be more than happy to give you all the information needed."

Councilman Dick Powell threw out whether the hourly fee should be cut in half because users are getting only half of the normal flow.

"I'll defer to City Council to set the fees," Schwind responded.

At that point, Mayor Bob Jackson said the discussion was ranging beyond the agenda item of approving the one-time ordinance change.

"I do think we've kind of lost sight of what this ordinance is for, to deal with the capital cost," he said. "Certainly we can deal with the operational issues through informational briefings if we need to. I think we need to kind of get back on focus here with the issue."

He then called for a vote for initial approval, which was unanimous, with Councilwoman Mary Kortsen on an excused absence. Final approval is expected during the next council meeting.


Evergreen Irrigation District again before council

(Posted Nov. 26, 2014)


User survey is HERE


Updated staff report is HERE 


Updated ordinance is HERE


Original 1986 ordinance is HERE


Locator map is HERE 



Monday night may be the deciding time on who pays for what and how much for repairs to the Evergreen Irrigation District pump and miscellaneous expenses.

The main pump failed earlier this year, leaving users without irrigation water during much of the heat of the early summer.

It's a continuation of the Oct. 6 City Council meeting where what was hoped to be a final plan was presented but delayed after questions from the council on whether users in the district had been fully informed of details of the plan and a complaint that while the plan covered the repairs issue there was no long term plan for the future.

The discussion is the second item on the three-item agenda for the Monday meeting, beginning at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd. The other items are spending $224,558 for six Chevrolet Caprice police patrol cars and on Chevy Tahoe patrol SUV and consideration of amending part of the Overfield Farms planned area development.

Repairs to the Evergreen pump and system cost $52,997, with the plan being that the users would be assessed $1,019 each, payable within a year.

That is a 50 percent break, given that the 1986 city ordinance covering the irrigation district says that all of repair costs would be assessed among users. In this case, that would have been $2,038.38 each.

So far, the staff report says, 19 of the 26 users have said they are willing to pay the discounted $1,019.

What delayed the discussion from the Oct. 6 meeting was a question of what would happen if a user did not want to pay and decided to drop out of the district.

The short answer was that if they would still have to pay the assessment because they were a user at the time the repairs were made.

"The starting point that we generally have is what the law is under our City Code today," City Attorney Brett Wallace told the council, "which is that the cost of water repairs will be assessed against the users of the system. 

"Traditionally, you kind of looked at that as a 'you broke it, you bought it' type of thing. Users who have used the pump to the point of expiration are generally going to be those who are going to be assessed.

"If there are those that want to get off the system and don't want to utilize the water any more, that's certainly their choice, but as the ordinance reads today they would be assessed.

"Ultimately, it's council's determination as to how we really want to move forward, but as the ordinance as drafted today consists of what our code is today."

That would change under the "one-time revision" of the ordinance the council will consider Monday night.

"Any owner no longer wishing to be part of the system and elects to no long receive irrigation service must notify the city no later than Jan. 31, 2015," the staff report says. "Any customer so notifying the City shall not be liable for the assessment amount, but shall no longer be eligible to receive irrigation service service as of the notification date. Any customer electing to reconnect after this date must pay the discounted assessment in full."

During the Oct. 6 meeting, councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons asked whether all of the users had received complete information about assessments.

"When you had 10 homeowners at the (late July) meeting, was it clear?" she asked. "I know you said you sent the letter that gave them the $1,019.99 per household, but was there anything in that letter that you have so much time to opt, or at that point it was like too bad?  "This is what the 10 people that came agreed on and that's what you're going to be assessed?"

That was pretty much the case, Community Services Director Bill Schwind replied.

"We really didn't give them any opt-out options. As Brett mentioned, we were bound by this ordinance," he said. "The way the meeting somewhat initiated it, effectively, is that based on a $52,000 total of getting the repairs fixed at the time that community meeting was being held or was initiated, they were on the line for $52,000. And so during that meeting we discussed kind of equitable fairness and that type of thing and that's where the 50 percent cost came in, divided by the users."

Fitzgibbons responded that, "I guess I just really thought that people clearly understood and were on board. I'm just concerned a little bit that the few people that want to get it, it just concerns me a little bit that they maybe didn't have clear information at that time."

Councilman Matt Herman said, "I would like to talk more to the people in the district, all the users, and see what their feeling is. They have water now, we have a system that's working, so maybe I propose we table this 'til a later date so that we can get more information and make a better decision on it and talk to more people, because I haven't had that much opportunity to talk to too many people about it and see what their thoughts about it."

Councilman Karl Montoya said he agreed with both Fitzgibbons and Herman, but, "My problem is after we're all said and done to say okay, we've passed this tonight and everybody pays up, we're still in the same boat as we were as we began this thing.

"There's still no plan, there's still no future, there's nothing decided in Evergreen District that we keep harping at it of where it's going to go, who's going to be in it, who's going to be out, at what time, and what is the city really going to do with it?

"There's got to be some plan. So I would like to table it as well. I'd like to get some more questions on this, because I think we need go out to the residents and find is this even doable?

"I think we need to have a bigger plan of what we're going to do from here forward, a passable plan of what we're going to do. Because if not, we're all going to forget about this, and in a few years here we are again. I think stop right here and figure out where we're going, what the future of this thing is and what we're going to do."

The only mention of the future in in the new ordinance, saying, "In the event the total amount of assessments collected by the city, not including interest and penalties, exceeds $52,997.95, such amounts, if any, shall be applied by the finance director toward expenses related to the system."


Life on Main Master Plan named one of best

(Posted Nov. 25, 2014)


The city issued this announcement today:


The City of Casa Grande received a “Best Master Plan” award by the Arizona Chapter of the American Planning Association for the Life on Main master plan in downtown Casa Grande. 

The award was presented to the Planning & Development Department during the 2014 American Planning Association – Arizona Chapter Conference on Nov. 6 in Yuma.

The Life on Main Master Plan provides a blueprint for redeveloping approximately 15 acres of vacant land that the city owns south of the Union Pacific Railroad in downtown Casa Grande. The city worked closely with Matrix Design Group from the Phoenix office to develop the master plan, which was approved by the Casa Grande City Council in August 2013.

“We’re honored to receive this award for a master plan that will help guide smart growth to attract more businesses, residents and an overall sense of vibrant downtown community,” said Casa Grande Planning and Development Director Paul Tice.

Central to the proposed plan is preserving the Casa Grande Hotel and Shonessy House and enhancing these structures with an active, flexible “historic plaza” for art fairs, farmers markets, a children’s playground, a community garden and other life enhancing features.

Also part of the master plan is a proposed gateway feature to welcome visitors that honors the region’s historic past with an iconic pedestrian bridge spanning the railroad tracks along East Main Street extending over Top and Bottom Street south to West Main Avenue that will connect to the historic plaza.

The master plan is the result of a year-long planning process that included input from several meetings with the public, community stakeholders, and city officials. The master plan includes a detailed implementation program which will help guide the development of the area in the future. The plan also provides a list of potential funding sources which the city may pursue in order to accomplish these strategies.

According to the Arizona Chapter of the American Planning Association, the annual awards recognize and celebrate the outstanding work of professional planners, citizen planners and others in making communities a better place to live.


You can download the master plan HERE


Casa Grande's jobless rate for October at 6.6%

(Posted Nov. 22, 2014)


Unemployment during October dropped in Casa Grande and in other area cities, although Eloy was still in double digits, latest statistics from the Arizona Department of Administration show.

Casa Grande had a jobless rate of 6.6 percent during October, down from 7.2 during September. 

The statistics for Casa Grande showed 1,390 people out of work during October, down from 1,511 for September. 

By contrast, Casa Grande had a 4.2 percent jobless rate (712 people out of work) for October  2007, the year before the economy crashed. 

Pinal County had an October rate of 7 percent jobless (9,981 without work), down from 7.1 (10,122) during September. The October 2007 rate was 4.5.

In the past, statistics from the state included unincorporated areas and Indian communities.

The state has now posted this notice: "Estimates for unincorporated cities and towns have been discontinued." The site refers users to outdated federal census statistics.

Other cities' statistics are:

Coolidge

6.6 percent jobless rate for October (314 unemployed), down from 6.8 percent (319) during September. The October 2007 rate was 8.4.

Eloy

10.9 rate for October (436 jobless), down from 11.1 (442) during September. The October 2007 rate was 6.7.

Florence

7.1 rate for October (227 jobless), down from 7.6 during September (240). The October 2007 rate was 4.5.

Maricopa city

6.1 rate for October (1,242 jobless), down from 6.3 during September (1,271). The October  2007 rate was 5.


Miller heading regional planning organization

(Posted Nov. 20, 2014)


Pinal County posted this announcement today:


Pinal County Supervisor Steve Miller was elected as chairman for the Sun Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization (SCMPO) on Tuesday morning in Casa Grande. 

"I served the past year as vice-chairman of this organization," said the District 3 Supervisor.  "I am pleased my peers elected me as the chairman.  We work together very well for the people in this area." 

Miller takes over from Casa Grande Mayor Bob Jackson. 

The Sun Corridor MPO became a reality for residents in Casa Grande and surrounding areas after the 2010 Census.  The city's population had reached over 50,000 residents.  Federal law states that any area at or over that number must form a metropolitan planning organization.  

The SCMPO oversees the cities of Casa Grande, Coolidge and Eloy, along with unincorporated areas within its boundary lines. 

"The Sun Corridor is placed right in the middle of an area that will experience a lot of growth," Miller said.  "We are concentrating our efforts on interstates 8 and 10 with an eye toward the future I-11.  Economic connectivity is an important element of this region's future growth.  We are also looking at our local railroads and the efforts to import and export products out of this area."

The group meets every second Tuesday, beginning in January.  You can learn more about SCMPO at: http://scmpo.org.


Monday night's actions by CG City Council

(Posted Nov. 17, 2014)


You’ll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


The City Council took these actions during tonight's meeting:

• Gave initial approval to the basic alignment of the sewer expansion project east of Interstate 10.

• Gave initial approval to a $240,000 contract for janitorial services in city buildings. (Scroll down for earlier story outlining the work.)

• Approved changing some land use from neighborhoods to commerce and business in the Storey Farms planned area development, located north of Florence Boulevard south of Cottonwood Lane between Overfield and Signal Peak roads. The property in questions is part of the proposed PhoenixMart project.

• Approving the route for the Electric Light Parade and which streets will be closed for the event. (Map and other items posted under COMMUNITY.)

• Appointed David “Brett” Benedict to the Historic Preservation Commission and Seprina Packard, Jeannette

Rhodes, Gloria Smith, and Jonathan Voyce to the Arts and Humanities Commission.


Ground broken for Tractor Supply Co. center

(Posted Nov. 17, 2014)


Video is HERE


The city issued this announcement this evening:


Tractor Supply Co. broke ground today in Casa Grande on the site that will be its first western distribution center. The Tennessee-based company will build a new 650,000-square-foot facility on about 100 acres in the Central Arizona Commerce Park near Peters and Burris roads. 

Tractor Supply is the largest retail farm and ranch supply store chain in the United States with more than 1,360 stores in 49 states.  The ceremonial groundbreaking event was attended by company executives and local government officials.

“The addition of a new distribution center in the Southwest is key to our western expansion strategy,” said Greg Sandfort, president and chief executive officer. “Arizona’s proximity to our Western stores provides an ideal location for our new facility which will allow us to achieve lower transportation costs and faster delivery to our stores. Casa Grande has an excellent workforce, and we appreciate the hard work of the local and state officials who assisted us through the process.  We look forward to a very long and productive partnership with the Casa Grande community.”

The new distribution center will be situated on the west side of Casa Grande with close proximity to Interstate 8, Interstate 10, the main line of the Union Pacific Railroad, and the Casa Grande Municipal Airport.

“Tractor Supply Co. will be a great addition to the community and create new jobs that are needed in western Pinal County” said Mayor Bob Jackson. “We’ve worked diligently over the years to have the proper infrastructure in place for current and future growth, and we’ve also improved the efficiency of the permitting process to create a friendly business environment. We welcome Tractor Supply Co. to the community and thank them for choosing Casa Grande as the site for their first western distribution center.”

The distribution center here will deliver merchandise to stores in Arizona, Nevada, Utah, southern California and New Mexico. The company plans on hiring over 250 employees when they open in late 2015. Tractor Supply Co. also plans on opening a retail store in Casa Grande on Florence Boulevard next year.


It's a lot of sweeping, mopping and vacuuming

NOV. 17 UPDATE:

Initial approval of the contract came from the City Council during tonight's meeting. Final approval is expected during the Dec. 1 meeting.



(Posted Nov. 15, 2014)


You'll find the staff report HERE


You'll find the complete rundown of the square footages that need to be cleaned and how HERE


You'll find the five bids HERE



It's a lot of sweeping, mopping and vacuuming to keep city buildings clean.

The square footage is 180,221 (97,985 of it carpeted), rising to 196,057 if the city decides to use a contractor for buildings now cleaned by city employees.

That ranges from 48,400 square feet for the Public Safety Facility on Val Vista Boulevard to 34,500 for the main City Hall building down to 380 for the restrooms in Peart Park.

The cost, if approved during Monday night's City Council meeting, will be $186,923 for the 180,221 square feet, rising to $240,000 if the optional cleaning is later added on.

"Staff received bid alternates for several facilities that are currently being cleaned by city staff," the staff report says. "Under current work load, we are able to not contract those facilities, but want the option to contract if needed. This is the reason staff is requesting authorization for the total $240,000 budget amount."

Those alternates are the Water Reclamation Facility at 3,000 square feet, the Teen Center at 4,317, the Woman's Club at 3,461, Peart Center ceramics at 3,890 and the Animal Control office at 1,168.

The low bid, up for consideration Monday night, was from New Image Building Services of Tucson for $186,923. The highest bid was $334,058.52 from Bio Janitorial Services of Glendale. No local bids were received.

The low bid is still less expensive for the city than having to hire additional maintenance personnel, which would require salaries and benefits, including retirement and medical.

As is the case with all contracts, much of the 47-page bid solicitation is in legalese.

It also includes section of how areas are to be cleaned, right down to urinal screens:

"This specification covers an enzymatic, nontoxic block urinal screen. (contractor supplied)," the request says. "Product must be nontoxic, non corrosive and contain enzymes to help eliminate odors and organic buildup. Product should dissolve mineral deposits, uric salts and hard-water scale. Product should have odor counteract to clean and deodorize with flushing."


East sewer again on City Council's agenda

(Posted Nov. 14, 2014)


You’ll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


It’s a short agenda for the City Council when it meets Monday night, highlighted by approving the basic alignment of the sewer expansion project east of Interstate 10.

The meeting, open to the public, starts at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at city Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.

A study session, at the same location and also open to the public is set for 6:30 p.m. to discuss the date for the next city elections.

Other agenda items include:

• A $240,000 contract for janitorial services in city buildings.

• A request from PhoenixMart to change some land use from neighborhoods to commerce and business in the Storey Farms planned area development, located north of Florence Boulevard south of Cottonwood Lane between Overfield and Signal Peak roads.

• Approving the route for the Electric Light Parade and which streets will be closed for the event.

• Appointing David “Brett” Benedict to the Historic Preservation Commission and Seprina Packard, Jeannette Rhodes, Gloria Smith, and Jonathan Voyce to the Arts and Humanities Commission.


A septic system or city sewer? Board to decide

DEC. 4 UPDATE


(Posted Dec. 4, 2014)


During tonight's Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, Planning and Development Director Paul Tice said his staff will study the city ordinance in question "with the idea of sort of questioning do they really need to connect if the septic system is working properly? If it's working properly is that really an appropriate public policy to make them connect just because we have the city sewer line within 300 feet? We're going to be evaluating that."



NOV. 11 UPDATE


(Posted Nov. 11, 2014)


The decision Tuesday night by the Board of Adjustment in the Judy Mulligan septic tank appeal was that rather than be forced to immediately connect to the city sewer systems as the city had requested, she will have two years to install a new, approved septic system. It is to be entirely on her property, rather than being partly under neighboring property as is the present system. The present septic system is to be filled in and abandoned.

(Posted Nov. 8, 2014)


The complete staff report, including letters, documents, city codes and other background material is HERE.


The complete agenda is HERE.




The history is simple:

In May of this year, Judy Mulligan bought the home at 204 E. McMurray Blvd. (built in 1959) that is on a septic system rather than city sewer.

Two months later, a neighbor complained that the system lies under the fence between the properties and asked the city to investigate.

The city issued a letter to Mulligan requesting that Mulligan connect to the city sewer system, as required by city code when a home is within 300 feet of the system.

Mulligan filed an appeal.

What is not so simple:

Mulligan says she touched bases with both the Pinal County environmental services people and Casa Grande officials and was told that as long as the septic system was operating with no problems she would not have to connect to the nearest sewer line, about 90 feet to the south between Walnut Avenue and Center Avenue.

"It has also been explained to me that it has been the city's long standing rule that as long as a septic system stays functional, it would be grandfathered in," Mulligan said in her appeal letter.

The city contends otherwise, setting the stage for Tuesday night's meeting of the Board of Adjustment, beginning at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.

The board is set up to hear requests for variances and other items, including acting as a quasi  judicial board for appeals, considering whether or not the city acted properly in actions.

The staff report for Tuesday's meeting says the board should evaluate the following when considering the Mulligan appeal:

• Whether staff made any error in the application of City Code 16.16.350 to the 204 E. McMurray Blvd. property. 

• Staff believes that no error did occur in the application of this code, as:

• The code provision is clear that when “a public sanitary sewer is installed within 300 feet of an individual lot, property or sewer system, the owner thereof shall be required to connect to the sewer” and that once public sanitary sewer is located within 300 feet of a property “it is unlawful for any such owner or occupant to maintain upon any property the use of an individual sewage disposal system thereafter.”

•  Staff has confirmed that there is a public wastewater main in the alley that is located on the south side of McMurray Boulevard between North Walnut Avenue and North Center Avenue and that said public wastewater main is located approximately 90 feet from the southwest corner of the 204 E. McMurray Blvd. property.

•  The appellant, in her justification statement, notes that prior to purchase of the 204 E. McMurray Blvd. property she checked with both Pinal County and Casa Grande staff to see if the septic system could remain in place and was told that it could remain as a “grandfathered” use as long as it was operating properly. Staff is not disputing that the appellant may have been given this information but unfortunately allowing the private septic system to remain in place as long as it is operating adequately is not what is required by (city code).

• Another factor that the board may want to consider in this matter is the legislative intent and public policy that is associated with the requirement for existing private sewage systems to be abandoned and connected to the public wastewater system when feasible. It is staff’s understanding that the following are likely the basis for said policy and code requirement:

• The city has made a significant investment of public funds in the construction of facilities for the treatment and collection of wastewater. It is important to have as many connections to said system as possible to spread the costs of constructing and operating this system to make the system economically viable.

• Individual private septic systems do not generally treat wastewater as reliably, nor as thoroughly, as a wastewater treatment plant. Private septic systems have a high potential for eventually failing and allowing untreated or partially treated wastewater to infiltrate into, and pollute, the groundwater. This is especially a concern in Casa Grande where the source of the public water supplied by Arizona Water Co. is groundwater extracted from wells located in various locations throughout the city.

In her appeal letter Mulligan says, in part:

"The property located at 204 E. McMurray has recorded easements which existed at the time of development and subsequent sales of neighboring properties. Any "clean outs" of said septic tanks would occur on the 204 E McMurray Blvd. property line, not interfering with any neighbors.

"Prior to me purchasing the house located at 204 E. McMurray I was advised of the ordinance that requires homes that are within 300 feet of a sewer connection to be connected, but that this was referencing any new construction. 

"Pinal County environments services stated that if the pre-existing septic system was in good operating condition and is being maintained on a regular basis there was no need to change from septic to sewer. If the septic becomes an environmental nuisance or hazard, then there would be cause to comply with the city ordinance. 

"They also stated that the county statue overrides the city ordinance when the septic system is in good operating condition. City officials and the county supervisor stated there was no need for the owner of the property to change to a sewer connection unless it was personally desired.

"Had I been made aware that within 90 days of residence I would have to then comply with (the city code), I may not have purchased said piece of property at that time or I would have requested it be complied with prior to escrow. To comply with connecting to the public sanitary sewer system would involve the excavation of McMurray Boulevard for access to the closest sewer main and would cause a great deal of burden to me at this time.

"Prior to purchasing the property, I personally contacted the County Supervisor Steve Miller and City Services Public Works, Jennifer, and they reiterated the same information to me. It has also been explained to me that it has been the city's long standing rule that as long as a septic system stays functional, it would be grandfathered in.

"I contacted the people who originally inspected the septic units and they also told me that the units were in good working condition and as along as I maintained them properly, I should not have any issues."


Monday night's actions by CG City Council

(Posted Nov. 3, 2014)


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/



These actions were taken by the City Council during Monday night's meeting:

• Gave initial approval of hiring Haydon Building Corp. at $166,972 for preconstruction work for the east area sewer expansion project.

• Approved an agreement with PFM Asset Management for advice on city investments, along with approving an updated city investments policy.

• Appointed Charlene Southern to the Board of Adjustment to replace Harold Vangilder, who resigned.


Monday night's actions by CG City Council

(Posted Oct. 20, 2014)


Upgrading of the city's computer network was approved during Monday night's 43-minute City Council meeting.

The computer requests are to spend $120,824 for a storage network to replace one that failed in February, shutting down the city's network. That was given initial approval. A companion spending request for $36,382 is to purchase network switches for the new equipment. That was approved.

Other agenda items include:

• Gave initial approval to spending $118,001 for a used watering system for dust control at the city landfill rather than $835,000 for a new replacement.

• Approved spending $48,194 for a 4,000-gallon water tank system to be used by the Streets Division.


September jobless rate in Casa Grande at 7.1%

(Posted Oct. 17, 2014)


Unemployment during September dropped about half a percent in Casa Grande and in other area cities, statistics posted Thursday by the Arizona Department of Administration show.

Casa Grande had a jobless rate of 7.1 percent during September, down from 7.6 during August. 

The statistics for Casa Grande showed 1,502 people out of work during September, down from 1,595 for August. 

By contrast, Casa Grande had a 4.1 percent jobless rate (693 people out of work) for September 2007, the year before the economy crashed. 

Pinal County had an September rate of 7.1 percent jobless (10,102 without work), down from 7.7 (10,812) during August. The September 2007 rate was 4.4.

In the past, statistics from the state included unincorporated areas and Indian communities.

The state has now posted this notice: "Estimates for unincorporated cities and towns have been discontinued." The site refers users to outdated federal census statistics.

Other cities' statistics are:

Coolidge

6.8 percent jobless rate for September (318 unemployed), down from 7.3 percent (340) during August. The September 2007 rate was 8.

Eloy

11.1 rate for September (441 jobless), down from 11.9 (427) during August. The September 2007 rate was 6.6.

Florence

7.5 rate for September (238 jobless), down from 8.1 during August (253). The September 2007 rate was 4.4.

Maricopa city

6.3 rate for September (1,271 jobless), down from 7 during August (1,390). The September 2007 rate was 4.9.


Favorable vote for more PhoenixMart changes

(Posted Oct. 16, 2014)


Scroll down on page for earlier background story, maps and city staff report on the request.


A favorable recommendation on a request by PhoenixMart to jettison most of its earlier proposed residential area was sent to the City Council by the Planning and Zoning Commission during Thursday night's meeting.

The favorable vote was a recommendation only; the City Council has final say.

The meeting was the second to discuss the request because state law requires that requests for major General Plan amendments, allowed once a year, must be held on two separate dates and in separate locations.

When AZ Sourcing announced the PhoenixMart project more than three years ago, the developers said there would be a 1.6-million-square-foot international products showcase building as the main feature. Others parts of the 500-plus-acre project north of Florence Boulevard between Overfield and Toltec Buttes roads were be a hotel and residential subdivision, which the developers said would help the thousands of workers find homes.

The developers now want to turn most of that residential area into a commerce and light industry section. Requests they are receiving indicates that that is what potential tenants want to see, they said. They also said that part of the original residential area has a pipeline under it, making development of homes a problem.

The favorable recommendation was approved 6-1, with commission member Joel Braunstein opposed.

"As I said at the last meeting, this has been almost two years ongoing and there's nothing been going on," he told other members. 

"This is part of Phase 3, Phase 4. Who knows what the economy, who knows what AZ Sourcing is going to want to do a few years from now? 

"I feel that this is not an integral part of starting Phase 1 and Phase 2. And is there going to be another request somewhere down the road? I would like to see them show what they're going to do before they ask us for all kinds of promises down the road.

"For that reason, I'm going to vote against it."

Braunstein said it's a situation of "Can we do this, can we do that? It's going from a planned business/residential project to business. If it was going to turn out to be a business park, why didn't you stick it on the south side of town (in one of the business/industrial parks)? We used this side of town because it was going to be residential and the Fire Department and the schools, the whole thing. 

"Now it's not turning out what we were originally presented with, that we agreed at that time with what they were asking for. And I think it stinks."

Commission Vice Chairman Mike Henderson sees it differently.

"I think the land has changed, the use," he said. "At the time that that was designed there was an anticipation that they were going to have a much larger residential market than we do and higher-density residential was going to be more appropriate than it turns out, maybe, to be.

"We only have one shot at this each year, so in order to allow them to plan what they want to plan for commercial activities, if we're going to do it we have to do it now. I don't think we commit ourselves to anything. I think we make it possible for them to proceed with their own plans, and I'd like to support it."

Member Ruth Lynch said, "I believe there has been a lot of work for infrastructure and preparing the site. This is a huge undertaking and I didn't expect to see it built overnight.

I just think there are many things going on that the public, me included, has not seen. But that doesn't mean that things are not being accomplished."

Braunstein answered that, "The delay of their request is not going to affect at all (the main building). We're not saying that the mart itself cannot be built. We're all waiting for the mart to be built. We're talking about something they may want to do three, four years down the road. Infrastructure is not even out there yet. It's not even in their plans, because they're asking us tonight for permission to start planning their infrastructure out there.

"Just like Mr. Henderson said, it's changing.We don't know what's going on. We don't know what's going to go on in three or four years. I don't see a reason to change it right now. Consider it in the future when the present is closer."

Regarding the 1.6-million-square-foot main showcase building, Planning and Development Director Paul Tice told the commission that the final development plan/major site plan for the structure is scheduled for the Nov. 6 meeting.


70-foot cellphone tower on hold for a month

(Posted Oct. 14, 2014)


You'll find the agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/boa/



A 70-foot-tall cellphone communications tower in a storage facility on Colorado Street south of Florence Boulevard is on hold until the next Board of Adjustment meeting.

The request was discussed Tuesday night, with T-Mobile willing to make changes on the site to conform with city requests. Those changes will require that a new variance application be submitted by T-Mobile and considered by the board at its November meeting.

T-Mobile had requested two setback variances for the tower in the Securlock mini-storage area at 517 N. Colorado St., but city planners recommended only the first variance, with the company to work with the city about the second.

The tower would be disguised as a palm tree. Associated equipment would be in a storage unit.

The first variance request was to allow the tower to be 67.6 feet from the west property line, where a 70-foot setback is required. The city staff recommended approval of that request.

The second request was for the south property line setback to be 47.6 feet, where 70 feet is also required.

According to the staff report, "The west setback variance (2.5 feet) has minimal impact on the adjacent residential property. However, the south variance (22.5 feet) has a greater impact

on the property to the south, which is vacant but is zoned for future residential. 

"City staff does not find justification for this variance request as it will have a negative impact on the adjacent residential property to the south in regards to the bulk and scale of the proposed tower and a direct visual impact. Staff would suggest the applicant move the tower further north within the site to meet the south setback."

The T-Mobile representative told the board that the company had met with the corporate parent of Securlock and had worked out moving the tower to the northwest corner where a building had the same configuration as the south location originally requested.

In other action Tuesday night, the board:

• Approved a request from Glenn Jones Auto for a variance to allow another sign.

• Approved a request from Arizona Water Co. for setback variances to allow new water treatment equipment in its facility at 1300 N. Henness Road.


Abandoned shopping carts efforts promised

(Posted Oct. 10, 2014)


Attempts will be made to facilitate meetings among city departments to see what, if anything, can be done about abandoned shopping carts littering areas of town, the Police Advisory Board was told Thursday night.

Board member Roger Vanderpool, who had asked that the item be put on the agenda for discussion, told Police Chief Johnny Cervantes that he is aware that the situation may not be within the purview of the Police Department or Code Enforcement, "but there are a lot of shopping carts over the last several months scattered around down.

"It kind of goes with that broken window thing, if you don't repair the window pretty soon everything else starts falling apart.

"And I know often, unfortunately, it is an economic-driven issue, also, because people using the shopping carts are normally folks that don't have other means of moving their groceries or personal property around."

Vanderpool said that at one time someone went around picking up carts, perhaps paid by some of the stores, but he does not see that very often any more

"The shopping carts have got to cost a pretty good penny," said. "You'd think that the stores would want them back."

Vanderpool said the problem will probably grow, "considering that we now are coming into the winter months everywhere else and our homeless population does grow this time of the year just because of our climate."

Cervantes responded that, "I appreciate your concern. The last thing we want to do is have a blight issue build inside our community. We can facilitate, coordinate with Planning or whoever else you coordinate with to try to look around and see if we can get those shopping carts picked up. But I agree with your 100 percent and I appreciate you bringing it forward."

Cervantes asked if there is any specific area of the city where Vanderpool is seeing the abandoned carts.

Vanderpool replied, "Obviously as you get within a half mile or three quarters of a mile of  Wal-Mart, Food City area. In the neighborhoods, really."

He said that if there is a person or company that picks up the carts, "it would probably be really nice if we could publicize a (phone) number so if someone sees a shopping cart they could call that individual to go pick that one up. Because, again, it's got to be also an economic loss for the stores."

Cervantes said he was not aware of any city ordinance covering abandoned carts.

"I'm not wanting to put any burden on local business," Vanderpool said, "but if a local business is called and maybe don't respond, PD calls them and they don't respond or code enforcement calls them and they don't respond, OK, maybe Public Works goes out and picks it up, sort of like the alarms ordinance, after two or three they're sent a bill for the services."

Cervantes replied, "Obviously, it is a concern and we'll certainly try to coordinate with the appropriate parties to try to rectify this issue, even if we have to facilitate getting with the major grocery stores and see if they have a service that they're actually utilizing. I'm not sure if they're (all) utilizing a service or if it's just specific to one grocery chain."

Board member Rodolfo Calvillo said, "I think if there was contact made with the big boxes and the larger stores and checked with their risk management and loss prevention it could be a situation where if they don't have it in place maybe collectively they could. If not, maybe it's something that could be brought to the attention of the chamber of commerce where they in turn could tell their customers.

"What I have seen, and as late as of this weekend, if you see one, often times there's two side by side, which kind of gives you the impression whomever is bringing it from the store, he or she is not taking it back. The next time he or she goes, grabs the second one."

Calvillo said that he has seen stores where the wheels of the cart would electronically lock the wheels when the edge of the property was reached, "but I haven't seen it here in Casa Grande."

Board chairman Mike McBride said one problem area is around an extended stay hotel on Florence Boulevard.

"They walk from Wal-Mart, push their cart down there since we put the sidewalk in," he said. "It used to be dirt and you couldn't push through the dirt. Now they've got a nice, clean sidewalk to push it and they just pile up next to that place."

Board member Joshua Carstens said that several years ago when his wife worked at a Target operation, "it was like a $20 gift card they got for every cart they brought back, as an employee. It was like an incentive to their employees to help them get their carts back.  I don't know if they do that anymore."

Vanderpool said he wonders if the stores could collectively do something like that for a nonprofit organization in town that would collect the carts.

"That might be a win-win for everyone," he said. "Win-win for a nonprofit, win-win for the community and the store if they're willing to chip in something to get their cart back."


Monday night's actions by CG City Council

(Posted Oct. 6, 2014)


You'll find the agenda items and associated staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


The City Council took these actions Monday night:

• After questions about whether users were fully aware of legal details and concerns that there is no long range plan to cover future failures or problems, tabled consideration of an ordinance assessing users for repairs to the Evergreen Irrigation District. The assessment would be $1,019.19 per user, going toward paying half of the $52,997.95 cost of the repairs to the well and other equipment after a pump failure earlier this year. (Scroll down page for earlier background story.)

• Approved a resolution opposing legalization of non-medical, or recreational, marijuana in Arizona. (See earlier background story, with link to resolution, under COMMUNITY.)

Watch the discussion HERE

• Gave initial approval to a bid of $896,038 for slurry seal for street resurfacing.

• Gave initial approval to a bid of $327,919 for asphalt rubber chip seal.

• Approved purchase of 624 96-gallon trash containers for $35,126.

• Gave initial approval to spending $62,901 for a loader for the Parks Division.

• Approved a final plat for a convenience store north of Florence Boulevard at Camino Mercado.

• Gave initial approval to a zone change to allow Arizona Water Co. to have a water tank, arsenic treatment vessels and other equipment at 1300 N. Henness Road.


PhoenixMart project update: Lesser and later

 The original proposal for the PhoenixMart project showed residential at the north and  northwest areas (left map). Developers now want to change the cross hatched yellow  part at left to commerce and business (right map)

(Posted Oct. 5, 2014)


You'll find the staff report with supporting information HERE



Lesser and later was the PhoenixMart message given to the Planning and Zoning Commission during Thursday night's meeting (Oct. 2).

When the project was announced in 2011, developers said there would be a 1.7-million-square-foot international products showcase building as the main feature. Others parts of the 500-plus-acre project north of Florence Boulevard between Overfield and Toltec Buttes roads were be a hotel and residential subdivision, which the developers, AZ Sourcing, said would help the thousands of workers find homes.

The project would open in late 2012 or early 2013, it was announced.

That opening date has often been pushed back, with developers citing difficulties in getting work permits for Chinese merchants who would occupy parts of the building and the lengthy process of obtaining required city permits.

That opening date is now "late 2015, early 2016," the commission was told.

The residential part of the project is also being scuttled in favor of other business type facilities.

Thursday's commission hearing was on a request by AZ Sourcing for a major General Plan amendment to changing 111 acres from neighborhoods designation (which allows residential)  to commerce and business. Such requests require two hearings, with the final one on Oct. 16 at 6 p.m. at the main library on Drylake Street.

The first question came from commission member Mike Henderson.

"Going back to the original presentations that were made by AZ Sourcing regarding PhoenixMart, there was a very substantial portion of the development that was quite high-density residential," he said. "Is this indicating a general trend away from putting the residential component in the whole PhoenixMart project?"

Senior City Planner Leila Demaree said the next step would be for AZ Sourcing to come back to the commission and the City Council for approval to amend the planned area development "to change the land use within that commerce and business to suit their needs.  So basically the area covered from neighborhood to commerce and business will be changed when they come back for the PAD amendment."

Henderson then asked, "And we will see a reduced emphasis on the housing product, as opposed to the commercial and perhaps industrial activity?"

That is correct, Demaree replied.

Henderson then asked Jeremy Schoenfelder of AZ Sourcing if all of the housing would go away.

Not all of it, Schoenfelder replied.

Referring to a plat map (shown above), he said that difficulties crossing a pipeline on the northwest corner of the project was one reason for the requested land use change.

"Through our land planning we sort of discovered it after our initial high level PAD," Schoenfelder said. "We knew it was there but we didn't realize the difficulty to be able to cross it from the development perspective.

"So the northwest corner sort of became a separate development in and of itself … partially where some of our utilities will be, our water campus will be there."

AZ Sourcing is also following what Schoenfelder said is interest in light office areas and other such development on the property.

"We're taking a look at the area in general and frankly feel that there's quite a bit of subdivisions that are planned (elsewhere) that are residential and things and we think that there will be plenty of supply for that and we'll let them do what they do well. We'll just really cater to the demand we're seeing within our activity."

Henderson asked if that means building out that entire area as a general business environment.

Schoenfelder replied that, "There's some activity that we're hearing from people specifically because of the PhoenixMart project, but in general I think that there's more activity here that will just develop in the true business, commerce on the whole site."

The main question still asked in the community was repeated by commission member Joel Braunstein: "We've been talking about this for two years-plus," he said. "When are you going to start?"

Schoenfelder said AZ Sourcing continues to have meetings with the city and with utilities providers.

"It's continuing to move forward," he said. 

"You'll see through various permits that we're going to be submitting that we're going to be doing multiple at-risk grading submissions in order to keep the timeline that we want to hit.

"But the goal is that we'll have heavy equipment out there in November, and that looks like it's fairly feasible right now based on last schedule, and then we would continue fairly substantial activity until the end."

Schoenfelder said there are still meetings about the main building, but the date now is late 2015, early 2016.

"So, every time you come before us it's being pushed back a little bit," Braunstein said.

Schoenfelder said "the anchor project is still the (huge) PhoenixMart building that you hear about, with first construction on that phase."

AZ Sourcing is talking with other developers and subdevelopers about the proposed hotel and other components, he said, but, "there are also some buildings that we're planning on developing ourselves, or at least in partnership with others. So it'll actually be a mix of it."


Evergreen Irrigation cost on council agenda

(Posted Oct. 3, 2014)


You'll find the agenda item and associated staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


A locator map is HERE


A users address list is HERE


A proposal that Evergreen Irrigation District users pay 50 percent of the $52,997.95 that it cost repair the electrical, pump and well casing components to keep the system in operation is on the agenda when the City Council meets Monday.

The meeting, open to the public, begins at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.

When Evergreen was platted in 1928 north and east of City Hall, one of the deed restrictions said, "All lot owners shall be required to pay their pro rata share of pumping expenses for irrigation water used on said premises; and all lots shall be deemed to be of equal size in ascertaining the pro rata share."

In 1986, the city passed an ordinance making that official, setting out the assessments and how they would be paid.

"Assessments are designed to recover large costs to the district which occur on a irregular or unpredictable schedule," that ordinance says. "Examples of such costs are repair and replacement of the pump and vehicle used in providing the service. Assessments shall be divided equally among all users of the service."

When the main pump failed earlier this year, leaving users without irrigation water, the city paid a contractor for the repairs.

The question: Should users cover all or part of the cost.

Over the years, the number of users has shrunk to 26, a document shows.

According to the staff report for the agenda item, "Once the water delivery service was restored, the current Evergreen Irrigation customers were invited to a neighborhood meeting  to discuss the water delivery schedule, as well as the issue of reimbursement. Those in attendance unanimously suggested and agreed that a 50 percent cost sharing program with the city was a fair and reasonable resolution. The group in attendance also requested that the City allow a one-year time frame for the users to pay the agreed upon repair balances."

That would be $1,019.19 per user.

There is also an hourly charge for the water coming onto the properties for deep irrigation.

"Parks maintenance staff is currently providing the labor required to deliver the water to the existing customers in a weekly rotation on a Monday through Friday schedule," the staff report says. "The hourly rate of $14.50 of service still applies. The new water flow meter installed with the new system reflects a current water delivery rate of 250 to 300 gallons per minute. This is less than the old pump system, thus requiring a longer amount of time needed to fully irrigate the residential property.

"Several of the customers have requested the opportunity to independently or self-water their personal property. Staff is currently evaluating the control and accounting process along with the cost of automating the use and delivery of the water with a PIN control or electronic card swipe device. Our initial findings are that the cost of automating the system would cause us to exceed the City Council-approved repair allowance and would represent a significant charge per user."

The staff report adds that, "Any new customers seeking to connect to the system after June 16, 2014, shall be responsible for the same amount to be used as an initial-buy in fee until the full cost of the repairs have been recovered by the city. 

"Although unlikely given the history of the area, if additional customers connect to the system such that the buy-in fee would exceed the cost of repairs, the buy in fee for those users shall be used to help establish a capital fee toward future repairs."


Other items on the Monday agenda include:

• A bid of $896,038 for slurry seal for street resurfacing.

• A bid of $327,919 for asphalt rubber chip seal.

• Purchase of 624 96-gallon trash containers for $35,126.

• Spending $62,901 for a loader for the Public Works Department.

• A final plat for a convenience story north of Florence Boulevard at Camino Mercado.

• A zone change to allow Arizona Water Co. to have a water tank, arsenic treatment vessels and other equipment at 1300 N. Henness Road.


McDonald's at mall to be 'latest and greatest' style

(Posted Oct. 2, 2013)


You'll find the agenda item and staff report at

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/


The McDonald's fast food restaurant scheduled for the Promenade mall will be "the latest and greatest prototype," the Planning and Zoning Commission was told Thursday night.

(See views above)

The 5,252-square-foot restaurant with dual drive-through lanes and outdoor seating area under a covered patio will be built on a vacant lot between Olive Garden and Mimi's.

Scott Audsley, area construction manager for McDonald's, told the commission that, "We're excited to get under way with our third restaurant in Casa Grande. This location will be franchised-owned, which 90 percent of the McDonald's are.

"We're excited to do the latest and greatest prototype with enhanced drive-through and lobby, as well as the patio which we've added to this restaurant.

"We are working toward a May groundbreaking, hope to have the restaurant open in the summer of 2015."

Commission member Joel Braunstein pointed out that there are already three McDonald's in Casa Grande, not two. 

Two are on Florence Boulevard, the third on Pinal Avenue.

"This one hasn't been franchised yet," Audsley said, "so it will be offered to either the franchisee that operates the other two or it may be another one that's nearby. There's two in the running for it."

Commission chairman Jeff Lavender noted that when the commission approved a Raising Cane chicken outlet on the other side of Florence Boulevard between Walgreens and Culver's the hours of operation were restricted, requiring closing between 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

"McDonald's is normally open 24 hours," Lavender said. "Is there any provision here to restrict (McDonald's) hours?

City Planner Jim Gagliardi responded that the Raising Cane operation was a conditional use within the Mission Royale commercial complex. "It was recognized that an adjacent fast food restaurant that was in that same zoning had those same hours, and so that was the recommended condition," he said.

Convenience food restaurants within the mall do not have the same conditions, he said.

Audsley told the commission that, "With this being a freeway location, it would be our intention to have the opportunity to run 24 hours. The franchisee has some say in that. If they're running a business and if they're not seeing a lot of traffic during the evening hours they'll close the dining area and possibly the drive-through, as well."

Braunstein said his question, given the number of convenience food outlets approved by the commission in the past few months, would be, "Why another fast food restaurant? I don't think it's the way that development in this town needs to go."

The vote to approve the major site plan for the McDonald's was 6-1, with Braunstein opposed.


Thursday actions by Planning & Zoning Commission

(Posted Oct. 2, 2014)


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/


These actions were taken Thursday night by the Planning and Zoning Commission:

• Approved a major site plan and final landscape plan for a Tractor Supply Co. regional distribution center on 100 acres at the southeast corner of Peters and Burris roads. 

The building is projected to be 663,617 square feet, with an expansion capability of 369,400 square feet.

• Approved a major site plan request for a 5,251-square-foot McDonald's with drive through on a Promenade mall between Olive Garden and Mimi's.

• Approved replatting of land in Casa Grande Business Park at the southwest corner of Gila Bend Highway and Thornton Road to allow conversion of an industrial building to a commercial bakery and building additions to the building for new product storage and loading facilities.

• Approved a preliminary plat for subdividing part of the commercial portion of Mission Royale across from Promenade mall into three lots to accommodate future development.

• Approved a request for a conditional use permit to building two homes in the Cottonwood Ranch subdivision on East Kingman Street, one for a model home and one for a sales office.

• Had the first hearing on a major General Plan amendment request to change 111 acres of the 585-acre PhoenixMart project from neighborhoods designation to commerce and business.

• Approved a conditional use permit for a two-home model sales complex within Cottonwood Ranch on Kingman Street.

• Approved adding a new single-family home model in the Los Portales subdivision on North St. Andrews Drive.

When the lights go out, the generators come on

(Posted Sept. 30, 2014)


You'll find the complete request HERE


When the lights go out at city buildings, the emergency generators go on -- or are supposed to.

That's why the city is calling for bids for generator routine maintenance and repair.

Under a one-year contract, extendable for up to four times, routine maintenance service calls would be done every three months and load testing every year, the request says.

The generators are located at:

• Public Safety Facility, 373 E. Val Vista Blvd.

• Fire Station 501, 119 E. Florence Blvd.

• Fire Station 502, 1479 E. Ninth St.

• Fire Station 503, 3305 N. Piper Ave.

• Fire Station 504, 1637 E. McCartney Road.

• City Hall Building B, 510 E Florence Blvd.

• Public Safety Communication Center, 520 N. Marshall St.

• Waste Water Treatment Facility, 1194 W. Kortsen Road.


Part of old co-op building sign will be donated

(Posted Sept. 27, 2014)


A move is afoot to donate part of the "Tools" sign at the old co-op building to the Historic Preservation Commission, which in turn will give it to the Casa Grande Valley Historical Society.

The building, on the northwest corner of Florence Boulevard and Peart Road, is being renovated to be the location of Harbor Freight Tools.

Addressing members of the commission during the last commission meeting, Chairman Marge Jantz said, "Harbor Freight is going to donate just the Tool part. They're going to utilize the rest of the sign, use all the bubbles and put the Harbor Freight box sign on the top."

Jantz said that originally Harbor Freight was going to cover the Tools part of the sign with the new box logo.

"I talked to Harbor Freight the other day and Irene said that probably the week of the 29th is when they're going to be installing signs. I asked her if they could donate the Tools piece and she said, of course we will."

A date to turn the sign over to the commission had not yet been set, Jantz said.

She said Harbor Freight was sort of surprised by the request, "but they were willing to work with us very nicely. They want to be good community members."

Jantz said the sign could be stored at the historical society's display barn "until such time it may be better used in a public place.

"That's going to the museum director and the board president and they are excited about that."


Funds sought for old Don Market restoration

(Posted Sept. 25, 2014)


Renovation of the old Don Market on Florence and First streets is stalled for now as the Don family assesses the project and tries to find out if federal or state historic preservation funds are available, the Historic Preservation Commission was told during its last meeting.

"Some of the Don family met the other day with Main Street and some other individuals downtown regarding the Don Market," Chairman Marge Jantz said. 

"They have already renovated the property next door. 

"They really want to do something with the Don Market, but they're a little overwhelmed at the moment because they've already worked on one building and the personal residence. The family lived up there (top floor) and they just feel really connected with that building.

"They really want it to be something that's going to honor the family.

"They were really on a kind of fact finding mission to see if there was any state money, which there isn't, or federal, which there could be but they'd have to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and they're not. They're interested in getting funds to repair the building."

Jantz said she told the Dons that she would call the State Historic Preservation Office to see what might be available.

"That property was surveyed in 1998 and at that time the survey said it could be a contributor if we had a downtown historic district but at that time they didn't feel that it was individually eligible," Jantz said.

"It was a really good meeting and they are really interested in doing something to honor the family. They really don't want to sell the building, they want to keep it but they want more use for it. 

"They were also asking if somebody could do a mural on the side, but it's really a little bit way to early for that because we don't know what's going to happen to the building."

City Planner Laura Blakeman, the liaison to the commission, said that as far as she knows the Don family had not approached the Planning and Development Department about the work. 

Further work on the two projects by the Dons would probably include restoring the sidewalk overhangs, or masonry canopies.

"The canopies probably first and foremost need to be taken care of," Jantz said. "When Ellison-Mills was working on the downtown street (the Florence Street renovation project) they did something with those awnings so they could move forward with the project, but they know that those are in really desperate need of repair."


Burned home asbestos removal bids sought

(Posted Sept. 23, 2014)


The complete request is HERE


Casa Grande is seeking bids for removal of asbestos contamination and the partial demolition of a home at 409 W. Second Ave.

In addition to removal of asbestos contaminated material, the request says work will include complete removal of the roof and all interior walls, along with removing all demolition debris.

According to a Casa Grande Police Department release on July 14 of this year, the fire was reported the morning of July 9 and was being investigated as arson.


Demolition of burned apartments approved

Severe fire damage at the west end of the apartments building is shown above.



(Posted Sept. 22, 2014)


The staff report, with building inspection report and city code sections, is HERE


A certificate of appropriateness for demolition of six apartments behind the Fisher Memorial Home that were heavily damage during a May fire and had long been in disrepair was approved Monday night by the Historic Preservation Commission.

The certificate was required because the apartments are on the Fisher Memorial Home property at Eighth Street and Olive Avenue, a site classified as a historic location. The apartments building, though, was not classified as historic.

The Fisher Memorial Home at 300 E. Eighth St., originally a funeral parlor, was built in 1927, but owner James McClelland told the commission he does not know when the apartments were constructed, being there when he bought the property in 1976.

A building inspection of the burned apartments structure in August found that, among other things, "the residential building has suffered extensive structural damage due to failure of the weather-resisting measures and fire damage to the exterior support walls and roof. 

"Based on the damage to the structural components of the building and the fact that the overall condition of the property is a hazard to anyone entering the building and or approaching portions of the building, city staff is recommending the building be demolished."

A condition of demolition is that it be completed within 60 days.

"I go along with it," McClelland told the commission. If there's any problem I'll try and get it taken care of."

He said one problem that must be taken care of before demolition can be started is that there is a bee colony in one of the apartments. He said he is attempting to find a removal service but, "I haven't been able to nail down someone to do that for me, have not."

The demolition contractor has told him that once that is taken care of, McClelland said, "he can have it done in a week's time."


Inspection report

This is the Aug. 14 building inspection report:


Based on the invitation of the property owner a visual inspection of the fire damaged residential apartment building located at 300 E. Eighth St. (hereafter known as the property) was performed to determine if the remaining structural components presented an immediate safety concern.

 The property has extensive damage to the west end of the structure due to a fire in May 2014. Structural walls and parts of the roof structure have been burned away and can no longer support the imposed loads, There is additional fire damage due to embers on the rear (north side) of the structure and on the south side awning above the doors into the rooms. 

In accessing the extent of fire damage to the structure a significant amount of structural failure due to rot and other damage was noted. The exterior weather protection has failed and allowed water intrusion into the roof and wall structures. It is recommended that no one enter the building due to the loss of the structural integrity. 

The property was fabricated using wood framing with stucco and roof sheeting of 1x6 lumber and various roof coverings including corrugated metal and composition shingles. Interior walls are wood frame with gypsum sheeting. The structure is built on a wood floor system as well as a structural slab-on-grade. Both floor systems appear to have failed with vertical displacement in several areas of the porch. 

The following items were noted on the exterior of the structure: 

• The west end of the building has significant fire damage to the supporting walls and roof structure. 

• There is visible structural damage to the roof and structural support walls and awning support posts. 

• The roof coverings have failed and/or are missing, allowing water intrusion into the structure causing damage to the structure. 

• The awning roof on the south side of the structure is failing and collapsing. 

• There are electrical wires and devices installed on the exterior of the property contrary to the requirements of the National Electrical Code and pose a hazard to anyone entering the property. 

• Electrical service equipment panels on the north side of the structure are open with the meters still installed.


The interior of several apartments were examined with the following observations:

 

Apartment # 4 

(western end of the building adjacent to the fire damage): 

• Water damage from roof failure. 

• Ceiling failing and collapsing into the rooms. 

• Water damage visible at several areas of the north wall. Extent of damage to framing unknown without demolition. 

• Ceiling, walls and contents all show some degree of damage from excessive moisture. 


Apartment #5: 

• Water damage to north exterior wall and west interior wall. Mold and other signs of extensive damage. 

• Wood floor in this apartment has failing and is extremely uneven. It appears that the original floor was constructed on or very close to the soils below the structure. 

• Ceiling shows water intrusion and damage to the ceiling and roof. Other damage to ceiling caused by vandals. 

• Colony of bees in north exterior wall. 

• Ceiling, walls, and contents all show some degree of damage from excessive moisture. 


Apartment #6 

• Signs of water damage from unknown entry. Ceiling, walls, and contents all show some degree of damage from excessive moisture. 

• Mold in north east corner of apartment. 


"In conclusion, the inspection of the property indicates that the residential building has suffered extensive structural damage due to failure of the weather-resisting envelope and fire damage to exterior support walls and roof." 


CG jobless rate for August at 7.6%, down a bit

(Posted Sept. 18, 2014)


Unemployment during August dropped just slightly in Casa Grande and in other area cities, statistics posted Thursday by the Arizona Department of Administration show.

Casa Grande had a jobless rate of 7.6 percent during August, down from 7.9 during July. 

The statistics for Casa Grande showed 1,598 people out of work during August, down from 1,672 for July. 

By contrast, Casa Grande had a 4.1 percent jobless rate (680 people out of work) for August 2007, the year before the economy crashed. 

Pinal County had an August rate of 7.7 percent jobless (29,432 without work), down from 7.8 (29,910) during July. The August 2007 rate was 4.3.

In the past, statistics from the state included unincorporated areas and Indian communities.

The state has now posted this notice: "Estimates for unincorporated cities and towns have been discontinued." The site refers users to outdated federal census statistics.

Other cities' statistics are:

Coolidge

7.3 percent jobless rate for August (341 unemployed), down from 7.4 percent (348) during July. The August 2007 rate was 7.9.

Eloy

11.9 rate for August (473 jobless), down from 12.1 (484) during July. The August 2007 rate was 6.5.

Florence

8.1 rate for August (253 jobless), down from 8.4 during July (266). The August 2007 rate was 4.3.

Maricopa city

7 rate for August (1,393 jobless), down from 7.3 during July (1,466). The August 2007 rate was 4.9.


Can you spare a dime -- or a street corner?

(Posted Sept. 17, 2014)


The number of panhandlers on Casa Grande streets and at intersections seems to be growing, causing more telephone calls to him, Councilman Matt Herman said during Monday night's City Council meeting.

There's also a problem of homeless people building shacks or other shelters on vacant land within town, Councilman Dick Powell said.

It has been pointed out before that some of the homeless are military veterans. Councilman Ralph Varela gave the council a short presentation on how Casa Grande could be a resource center contact for veterans.


Panhandlers

"I've gotten a few more calls this week about the panhandlers," Herman said, adding that he has explained to callers that the city has no ordinance against panhandling, something involving First Amendment rights.

"But I'm just thinking of a safety issue that we're having," he said.

"There's getting to be a lot of people and I've heard of some of these people fighting over different corners that they stake out, actually looks like an organized business going."

Casa Grande is a city that will help people down on their luck, Herman said.

"I don't want it to be perceived any other way," he continued, "but it's just a safety issue for a lot of our residents and I have been getting a lot of calls about, seems to be getting more prevalent, going to get more so as the weather gets nicer, too.

"So if there is something we can do about the safety issue on that, I would appreciate it."

It's an issue the city has been facing for years.

Ten years ago, Police Board Chairman Karl Montoya (now on the City Council) brought a Bullhead City ordinance against panhandling and loitering to the board for discussion.

"Basically what we have in our downtown district is a lot of loitering, some begging and it's really become an unsightly picture downtown," Montoya said at that Police Board meeting. 

"We're trying to find if we do have an ordinance, if we need an updated ordinance or see if we can pass an ordinance to take care of some of the problems."

Scott McCoy, city attorney at that time, said there is a state law against panhandling and the city also has ordinances against drinking on the streets.

Loitering ordinances, he said, have consistently been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court as targeting one segment of society, adding that any city ordinance against loitering would probably be thrown out for vagueness and discrimination.

"This statute from Bullhead City would not pass constitutional muster, I can assure you," he said. "The reason it is still on the books is probably that nobody has challenged it."


(Two stories from that 2004 Police Board meeting were written by the CG News owner, then a city government reporter for the Casa Grande Dispatch.

(The main story is HERE.  An explanatory secondary story is HERE.)


Squatters

In addition to the panhandlers, Powell said, "we've had some squatters, I think everybody's aware of kind of what's going on.

"There's people that are moving in, some on bare land, just building areas with things they gathered up around town and stuff like that.

"I think that's something is kind of new. I don't remember that issue every having come up before."


Veterans

Varela said he attended a veterans' initiatives workshop during a recent conference of the Arizona League of Cities and Towns. Noted during that workshop, he said, was that there are about 600,000 veterans of all era, around 25 percent of them in rural areas.

"One of the things that was presented was a challenge to cities and town to develop a care and military veterans resource network," Varela continued.

"Really, what it would require is to designate a city staff person or department to undertake this initiative, requires training for city staff and department, requires that we appoint a contact for the city. There really is no cost to it."

Varela passed the report on to City Manager Jim Thompson "so that we can kind of look at how the city can position itself to be a resource network."


The comments from Herman, Powell and Varela came during council reports at the end of the meeting. Because the subjects were not on the formal agenda, no action could be taken.


Monday night's actions by the City Council

(Posted Sept. 15, 2014)


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


Initial approval was given Monday night by the City Council to a request from the Historic Preservation Commission to change the name of Washington Street to its original Top and Bottom Street.

(Scroll down under COMMUNITY for earlier CG News stories on the subject.)

• Gave initial approval to a contract for $81,018 for updating the city airport layout plan.

• Gave initial approval to an agreement to add $200,000 of city money to the $750,000 to be put up by owners of Central Arizona Commerce Park for upgrading of infrastructure.

• Gave initial approval to donating a 25-year-old Fire Department 100-foot platform to Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology for use in fire science classes. The staff report says the 1987 year model platform has been advertised for sale but because it is so old there have been no offers to buy. The platform was replaced by a newer model last year.


City honored for its redesigned website

(Posted Sept. 12, 2014)


The city issued this announcement today:


The city of Casa Grande has received an award of excellence by the City-County Communications & Marketing Association (3CMA) for its redesigned website, www.casagrandeaz.gov

Casa Grande was one of three national winners in the category of digital interactive – overall website.   The City was recognized during the annual Savvy Awards ceremony at this year’s 3CMA conference held Sept. 3-5 in Minneapolis, Minn.

Casa Grande launched its redesigned website in July 2013. The new website was designed entirely in-house by Tom Picklesimer, the city’s webmaster using WordPress, an open-source content management system. 

Some of the new features of the website include live video streaming of council meetings and a “How do I” tab to take visitors directly to job openings, pay city utility bill, and report graffiti. The new website also includes a comprehensive calendar of events and tabs that separate news/announcements, items of interest, public meetings, a featured video and pet adoptions.

“Love the simple format of the homepage,” said the judges. The judges also praised the city for using WordPress instead of expensive third party software. More than 600 entries in 37 categories were submitted from across the country in this year’s Savvy Awards competition.

“Our main focus has always been to make sure our website is easy to navigate and updated with current information,” said Agustin Avalos, the city's public information officer. “We are honored to be recognized for our efforts by a national organization.”

According to 3CMA, the Savvy Awards recognize outstanding local government achievements in communications, public-sector marketing and citizen-government relationships. The Savvies salute skilled and effective city, county, agency or district professionals who have creatively planned and carried out successful innovations in communications and marketing.


Bids sought to rehab 50-year-old hangars

(Posted Sept. 9, 2014)


You'll find the complete request for bids and scope of work HERE


The airport master plan is HERE


Casa Grande is seeking bids for rehabilitating two hangars at the city airport that are more than 50 years old.

The work on hangers one and two, to be done no more than two bays at a time, includes column base, sheet metal siding and hangar door repairs.


Crack sealing contract for street maintenance OK'd

(Posted Sept. 7, 2014)


The staff report is HERE


Approval of a contract for up to $100,000 for crack sealing material for city streets sets the stage for continued maintenance of Casa Grande streets.

"This is a program that we've been very aggressive with," Public Works Director Kevin Louis told the City Council prior to initial approval of the contract. "We feel that this is probably one of our most effective pieces of maintenance that we can do to our streets to keep the moisture from penetrating the subgrade and increasing the deterioration of the pavement."

Louis said the contract, with final approval set during the next meeting, allows spending up to $100,000 but, "I don't think we're going to need that amount. Typically, we spend about $60,000, but we do have the ability to look at what our purchase needs are in that account and make adjustments. We did want that spending authority prior to moving forward."

Keeping city streets in repair as long as possible before costly replacement is important enough that Councilman Dick Powell, usually conservative about spending taxpayer money, said, "This is probably the only time I've ever asked you this, but I would be very happy if you spent all of it. There's a lot of streets in Casa Grande, so I would like to see every penny of it spent."

Mayor Bob Jackson concurred, adding, "I do think it is the least expensive thing and the most important thing to do, so I agree with you."

Louis said crack sealing will be done by city crews on streets that will receive overall sealant this year.

Work will be done as soon as possible, he told the council.

"Sometimes what we'll do is we'll order some of the material ahead of time within our spending limits to get started," he continued, "so we may order a few pallets within my spending limit and then they'll get started. But this is something we'll start as soon as we're able to get the material on site."

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons asked if the type of crack sealing material changes from time to time because of improved technology.

"We do a lot of research," Louis replied. "Arizona State University has a great asphalt materials conference that they put on each year and they have their students go through and do projects and they bring in vendors, so we're exposed to a lot of opportunities throughout difference conferences throughout the year to look at those different materials.

"That, and the sales reps are very aggressive in bringing that material out and sample it for us.

"In the eight years that I've been here we've probably used five different crack seal materials. It's something that just evolves. Materials are introduced into the system, the new polymer, the rubber modified additives to make that material work a little better.

"Obviously, we look at that cost benefit, where is that break point. We spend a lot more money on a more improved project product, but we think that this project meets our need."

Fitzgibbons wanted to know how products are chosen.

"When you're choosing the product, I'm sure that these sales reps can come from Colorado where the weather's not 130 degrees, or whatever, so how do you take that into consideration?" she asked. "Are they testing it in Arizona? When you go to this conference do they show examples of how it works in Arizona, probably one of the hottest places, I would imagine?"

Councilwoman Mary Kortsen then pointed out that the paperwork given to the council showed that the purchase will be for hot weather type of material.

"We really rely on the state of Arizona," Louis said. "They have their own material labs and we rely on some of the data that they're able to generate. But there are a lot of private industries out there that do the testing. There's a lot of different areas where we can compare product to product to see what's best for this area, what's best for our type of asphalt. Asphalt here is different than asphalt in Flagstaff, so those different characteristics are taken into consideration as we pick these materials."


A Taco Bell coming to Villago Marketplace

The Taco Bell site in Villago Marketplace is outlined in red on map at left.


(Posted Sept. 4, 2014)


A major site plan for a Taco Bell restaurant in Villago Marketplace was approved Thursday night by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The 2,566-square-foot restaurant with drive-through will be in the center of the south part of Village Marketplace abutting McCartney Road.

Construction of the project will begin as soon as possible, the commission was told.


In other action Thursday night, the commission:

• Sent a favorable recommendation to the City Council on a request by Arizona Water Co. to change zoning at its 1300 N. Henness Road wellsite to allow reduced setback requirements, making it easier to install new arsenic removal treatment equipment and storage tank.

"Arizona Water Co. has plans to expand the arsenic removal facility to increase treatment capacity to meet water supply demands of the community …," the staff report accompanying the agenda item says.

• Approved a preliminary plat to resubdivide lots six and seven at Casa Grande Shopping Center to allow Western Dental to move into part of the building occupied by Pet Club until it moved to the north end of the center.

The present configuration of the lots does not allow enough parking under city code for a business such as Western Dental. Moving the property line of lot seven about 77.5 feet to the west will allow for more space. 

The spaces are already there, but are part of an earlier configuration for retail business, requiring one parking space for each 200 square feet of floor space. Western Dental, as a medical classification, will need one space for each 200 feet of space, or 38 spaces, necessitating the boundary change.


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/


Tuesday night actions by the City Council

(Posted Sept. 2, 2014)


You'll find the full agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


These actions were taken Tuesday night by the City Council:

• Gave initial approval to using grant money to self-contained breathing apparatus equipment for the Fire Department at a cost of $113,339.

• Gave initial approval to purchasing a loader for the Sanitation Department at a cost of $66,155.

• Gave initial approval to spending $100,000 for streets crack sealing material for the Streets Department.

During a study session before the regular meeting, heard from Police Chief Johnny Cervantes about personnel turnover in the Police Department.

The hour and a half session will be covered in a series of upcoming CG News articles.


Santa Cruz Crossing developer backs down on plan
to reroute Santa Cruz Wash, phase in infrastructure

(Posted Sept. 1, 2014)


The 2006 proposal map is HERE


The latest proposal map is HERE


A map showing the area in relation to neighbors is HERE


The Aug. 4 City Council staff report is HERE


The Aug. 18 City Council staff report is HERE


The Planning and Zoning Commission staff report is HERE


The traffic analysis conclusion is HERE


Army Corps of Engineers flood letter is HERE



In the wake of the rejection by the City Council of its new plans for the Santa Cruz Crossing  development at the southeast corner of Rodeo and Trekell roads, the developers have backed down and say they will no longer reroute the North Branch of the Santa Cruz Wash. 

Rodeo Road improvements, including a neighborhood drive so residents to the north in Rancho Grande will no longer have to back out onto Rodeo, will now be in the first phase of the new plan, they say.

The plan to amend the planned area development, which was approved by the city in 2006 but never built, was passed by the Planning and Zoning Commission but ran into opposition from the council, mostly centering on possibility of flooding caused by rerouting the Santa Cruz Wash from the center of the development to the southern boundary. Neighbors appeared at the council meetings to express concerns that the change would cause flooding in their subdivisions, mainly Desert Valley and along Bisnaga Street.

The first council hearing was Aug. 4, but was continued until Aug. 18 to gather more information to answer the questions. After hearing from the developer and residents during that second meeting, the council denied the application. Voting in favor were Mayor Bob Jackson and councilmen Matt Herman and Karl Montoya. Opposed were councilmen Ralph Varela and Dick Powell. Councilwoman Mary Kortsen was absent and Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons recused herself because her law firm was representing another development and objecting to allowing Rodeo Road improvements to be part of later development of Santa Cruz Crossing.

Backing down by the developers was included toward the end of a letter to the city reproduced as a full page advertisement in the Casa Grande Dispatch on Sunday, Aug. 31.

The letter from Joseph A. Miller, chief executive officer of Integria Development Inc. listed what it sees as factors in the development.

In the last paragraph of the Aug. 21 letter, Miller said, "After the council denied our PAD amendment, we have decide to revise our plan to align the drainage with the approved 2006 PAD as that seemed to be the main point of contention.

"In addition, we will bring the offsite improvements along Rodeo Road into Phase I to alleviate the city's concern that they will be left with anything but an improved project accompanied with anything but an improved project accompanied with high quality assisted living and independent living apartments."

Dennis Fitzgibbons, a Casa Grande attorney, had appeared at both City Council hearings, saying that allowing the the phasing of major improvements would be contrary to policy toward other developments approved in the past. Those approvals, including a proposed  assisted and independent living facility next to the Villas at Mary T, required upfront improvements for traffic and drainage, he said.

The original proposal for Santa Cruz Crossing kept the Santa Cruz Wash flowing through the center of the development. The proposal denied by the council would reroute it to the southern border of the project.

Santa Cruz Crossing was originally envisioned as mainly a residential development, with some mixed use. The revised plan as outlined in the Planning and Zoning Commission staff report proposed:

• Adding an assisted living facility as a permitted use.

• Removing an office area.

• Providing development standards for previously approved commercial and residential areas.

• Relocating the area previously shown as “Green Court Homes,” a high-density single-family area, to a more southerly portion of the site and reclassifying it as senior patio homes.

• Adding two-story senior apartment homes in the northern area of the PAD (adjacent to Rodeo Road, west of a future Pueblo Drive, south of Rodeo Drive).

• Adding an area for a community center.

• Changing proposed alignment of future Pueblo Drive through the site to extend to the south end of the PAD.

• Realignment of the natural east-west drainage corridor that traverses the site from its current area to a more southerly location.

In the letter to the city, Miller said that, "Integria Development and the Fabricant family would like to express our extreme disappointment in the City Council's decision to deny our application to amend our approved planned area development (PAD) at Rodeo and Trekell Roads. Your professional staff and experts felt confident, as did our expert engineers, that our redesign addressed all of the concerns that came up … 

"Unfortunately, for the city of Casa Grande and the neighbors, we will not be able to move forward as quickly as originally planned. Our goal has always been to improve Casa Grande by developing approximately 94 acres creating jobs, revenue, new residences and, with our amendment, providing more choices for its aging population. 

"Currently, Casa Grande does not have the capacity in assisted living to care for the aging population, even with the development of the other currently proposed facility on Cottonwood (the facilities next to Mary T at Peart Road and Cottonwood Lane). There is, and will be for years to come, a great need for more assisted living in Casa Grande. The advent of these two new luxury facilities may attract new residents to the area from Phoenix, Tucson and other areas in proximity. Casa Grande is growing and our project will only help not hinder its future success."

Miller said that the amended proposal "more than adequately addressed" concerns brought up during both council meetings.

"First," the letter continued, "it should be noted that the widening of Rodeo Road and frontage road was included and approved on the 2006 PAD by the council at that time. 

This portion remained basically unchanged from the approved 2006 PAD. However, because it came up we should address this concern today. 

"We will dedicate three acres of our property to improve the conditions that our neighbors to the north of Rodeo currently have. We can all agree that backing out of a driveway onto a major road is unsafe. Our plan corrects and addresses that unsafe condition. The neighbors will benefit from the frontage road by being able to safely exit their driveways and the buffer makes it safer for children to play up and down the street in front of their homes and not on or near the heavily trafficked Rodeo Road. 

"As for the Desert Valley subdivision, we all recognize that they have a serious flooding issue. In 1985, the Fabricants donated the 20 acres of land south of that neighborhood to the city to channelize the north branch of the Santa Cruz Wash back to its original location. It was their generosity that made the area safer for all of the residents in the area by redirecting the natural flows of the wash. 

"The city designed and built the drainage devices that unfortunately may be inadequate and, from time to time, overflow creating flooding conditions for the Desert Valley subdivision. As you saw from the FEMA flood map the Desert Valley subdivision is mostly located in the 100-year flood zone. 

"However, our project and engineered channels will collect the water that flows from the north of the Desert Valley subdivision through our project. These waters will be collected and expelled through the proper drainage culverts beneath Trekell Road, all but eliminating the waters flowing into their subdivision from our property. Collecting and directing those waters helps immensely by not adding to the waters that rise up from the south of their properties in times of severe flooding. 

"Of course, we cannot eliminate their flooding issues entirely as they receive water from the Santa Cruz Wash and the adjacent Arroyo Linda PAD to our east. 

"However, we can lessen the probability of our water effecting (sic) the Desert Valley subdivision which, in fact, protects those residents that border our southern property line and in no way puts those residents in any sort of jeopardy, in deep contrast to what was presented and discussed at the hearings."


It's a light agenda for City Council on Tuesday

(Posted Aug. 29, 2014)


You'll find the full agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


It's a light agenda when the City Council meets Tuesday night, a day later than normal because of the Labor Day holiday.

The regular meeting, open to the public, begins at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.

A study session at 5:30 p.m. at the same location and also open to the public will continue the presentation by Police Chief Johnny Cervantes on progress being made on the Police Department's strategic plan.

Items on the 7 p.m. agenda include:

• Using grant money to self-contained breathing apparatus equipment for the Fire Department at a cost of $113,339.

• Purchasing a loader for the Sanitation Department at a cost of $66,155.

• Spending $100,000 for streets crack sealing material for the Streets Department.


Building or rebuilding roads in Casa Grande is more
than tossing down asphalt and hoping for the best

(Posted Aug. 24, 2014)


The staff report is HERE


The contract, with scope of work, is HERE



In the old days, if you wanted a road you ran a bulldozer across the land, threw down some blacktop and hoped for the best.

Today, it involves major studies and designs, even for roadway improvements.

No longer do crews go out, find a pothole or crumbling shoulder and put down some gravel base and fill the area with new asphalt, calling it done.

And, as cities grow, heavier traffic pounds the roadways built years before, causing gradual deterioration.

Such is the case with improving Thornton Road from the Gila Bend Highway to West Cottonwood Lane, a $222,675 project just for the design alone, breaking the work into a half-mile section from Gila Bend to the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and another just under half a mile from there to Cottonwood. 

The later construction work, for which no start date has been announced, is estimated at $1.5 million for the first section and $1.1 million for the second.

Initial approval of a contract with Schlesinger Consulting Engineering of Tucson for the design of full reconstruction and drainage improvements came during the last City Council meeting.

The work has long been needed, prompting Councilman Matt Herman to comment that, "As someone who drives that road often, it's very much needed. That's an area we're trying to designate as our industry and light manufacturing area, so it's going to be very important to have good transportation in that area."

Councilman Dick Powell said, "This is probably the one I get the most calls on. I'm just very happy to see the city's going to address it and I think it'll be certainly appreciated."

The city has long envisioned Thornton as a major route through the industrial area, keeping heavy trucks from coming all the way down Pinal Avenue to Gila Bend and then west to the industrial area. In other words, it would be a northbound bypass to Cottonwood, then east and then north on Pinal. The reverse would be true for southbound traffic.

City Traffic Engineer Duane Eitel read the staff report to the council, pointing out that Thornton from Gila Bend to Cottonwood is now two lanes with limited curbs, sidewalks and storm drains.

"This road is deteriorating due to the large amount of truck traffic and poor storm drainage," the report says. "The Public Works Department has performed some temporary repairs on the section from Gila Bend Highway to the railroad tracks to provide temporary improvements on a short-term basis. 

"This project will provide the design services necessary to then construct a permanent solution to the substandard conditions that will support future industrial development in that area."

According to the staff report, the work would include replacing the existing pavement and improving the subgrade. There would be no change to the road width or its alignment, although some engineering work would be needed to improve drainage.

The project will be complicated because approvals and permits will be needed from the Arizona Department of Transportation, the railroad and San Carlos Irrigation and Drainage District, which has a irrigation ditch in the area. The report indicates that there is the possibility that the ditch could be abandoned.

Eitel pointed out that the $222,675 design cost with Schlesinger for the $2.6-million construction falls into industry standards  that design costs generally fall between 6 to 12 percent of construction costs.

That fee is reasonable, Eitel said, "when you take into account the large amount of coordination required with ADOT, UPRR, and the San Carlos Irrigation Drainage District."


Monday night's actions by CG City Council

(Posted Aug. 18, 2014)


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


These actions were taken Monday night by the City Council:


• Gave initial approval to a $223,675 contract for roadway design for improving Thornton Road between Gila Bend Highway and Cottonwood Lane. The project, in brief, would replace deteriorating pavement and make other repairs. The first phase would be from Gila Bend Highway to the Union Pacific tracks, the second from there to Cottonwood Lane.

Other agenda items include:

• Gave initial approval to a $31,065 contract for removal of asbestos and lead-based paint from the city-owned former Raggedy Ann Day Care Center at 419 W. Second St., just off Pinal Avenue, prior to demolition.

• On a 3-2 vote, rejected a major proposed amendment to the Santa Cruz Crossing development at the southeast corner of Rodeo and Trekell roads. Approval would have required at least four votes. In favor were Mayor Bob Jackson and council members Matt Herman and Karl Montoya. Voting against were council members Dick Powell and Ralph Varela. Councilwoman Mary Kortsen was absent and Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons recused herself because her law firm is part of objections to some conditions the changes. The item had been held over from the last meeting because of questions about flooding and traffic. The same questions arose during Monday's session.

• Gave initial approval to purchase of a 4x4 pickup truck to be used for carrying equipment for the Police Department's traffic unit.

• Watched the swearing in of three new officers in the Police Department. (A photo is posted under POLICE.)


Development around PhoenixMart seeing changes

(Posted Aug. 17, 2014)


The notice is HERE


Activity around the proposed PhoenixMart wholesale showroom complex east of Interstate 10 may be picking up.

A notice posted by the city says that on Sept. 4 the Casa Grande Planning and Zoning Commission will consider a request for a major amendment to the 3,714-acre Overfield Farms planned area development, designating 445 acres as a residential area,

The 500-plus-acre PhoenixMart site, a part of the original Storey Farms planned area development,  sits at the bottom center of the Overfield Farms PAD area, generally bounded by Hacienda Road on the west and Overfield Road on the east.

The staff report is not yet available, but the notice indicates that the request includes:

• Refining 445 acres of the 3,714-acre Overfield Farms PAD as Alcea at Overfield Farms defining specific development standards for the area.

• Inclusion of development master plans including land use; landscape and open space; streets; pedestrian, bicycle, and trails; drainage; water; wastewater and phasing.

• Adding a school use, rearranging locations of previously approved land uses.


July jobless rate in Casa Grande drops to 7.9%

(Posted Aug. 15, 2014)


Unemployment during July dropped slightly in Casa Grande and in other area cities, statistics posted Friday by the Arizona Department of Administration show.

Casa Grande had a jobless rate of 7.9 percent during July, down from 8.4 during June. 

The statistics for Casa Grande showed 1,675 people out of work during July, down from 1,769 for June. 

By contrast, Casa Grande had a 4.2 percent jobless rate for July 2007, the year before the economy crashed. 

Pinal County had a July rate of 7.8 percent jobless (11,085 without work), down from 8.1 (11,478) during June. The July 2007 rate was 4.5.

The state's July rate was 7.4, down from 7.5 during June. The July 2007 rate was 3.9.

In the past, statistics from the state included unincorporated areas and Indian communities.

The state has now posted this notice: "Estimates for unincorporated cities and towns have been discontinued." The site refers users to outdated federal census statistics.

Other cities' statistics are:

Coolidge

7.4 percent jobless rate for July (349 unemployed), down from 7.7 percent (361) during June. The July 2007 rate was 8.2.

Eloy

12.1 rate for July (484 jobless), down from 12.5 (502) during June. The July 2007 rate was 6.7.

Florence

8.4 rate for July (266 jobless), down from 9.3 during June (297). The July 2007 rate was 4.4.

Maricopa city

7.3 rate for July (1,468 jobless), down from 7.4 during June (1,482). The July 2007 rate was 5.


Raising Cane's chicken restaurant approved

A typical Raising Cane's building, above.



(Posted Aug. 7, 2014)


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

          http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/


Another chicken restaurant in the Promenade mall area will be built on the south side of East Florence Boulevard between Culver's restaurant and Walgreens.

Approval for a conditional use permit and major site plan for the Raising Cane's chicken restaurant and a separate multi-tenant building was granted unanimously Thursday night by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Raising Cane’s is proposed as a 3,616-square-feet convenience food restaurant with a drive through. Within the Mission Royale planned area development, a convenience food restaurant is a conditionally permitted use requiring consideration by the Planning Commission.

Across Florence, a Chick-fil-A restaurant is located east of the Target store. 

The major site plan is for the restaurant and the 6,023-square-feet multi-tenant building having two tenant spaces.

According to the staff report, "No specific tenants are presently being considered with this plan; however the Mission Royale PAD allows uses such as certain types of retail, office, medical office, or restaurant."

The commission was told Thursday night that both buildings would be built at the same time.

A condition laid down for the restaurant is that it be closed between 11 p.m.-7 a.m. each day, a concession to neighbors to the south in Mission Royale.

No construction start date or opening date were given.


http://www.raisingcanes.com/


In other action Thursday night, the commission:


• Because of lack of progress in negotiations between the city and the company, held over for two months a major site plan/final development plan for a one-story, 6,972-square-feet O'Reilly Auto Parts store on Florence Boulevard. It would be on a vacant pad in front of Lowe's home improvements store, between Western Bank and Eegee's.

The city's position that the Community Center land use designation in the latest city General Plan calls for buildings to be placed closer to the street, such as in the old downtown area. The city suggested a 15-foot setback. O'Reilly wanted an 80-foot setback with parking in the front of the building.

As the staff report put it, "Staff discussed compliance with the Community Center land use design objectives with the applicant and how it can be achieved with this site with a fairly simple modification of their typical pro-typical site plan. However, the applicant has informed staff that this type site design does not work with well with the nature of an O'Reilly store. 

"Staff has provided the applicant site design modification suggestions that would allow them to fairly easily meet the design intent of the Community Center land use category but the applicant did not feel a building orientation that brought the building closer to the street and the parking to side would meet their needs. 

"Staff recommends that the commission deny the major site plan/final development plan due to the following requirement not being met: The proposal is not in conformance with the design intent of the Community Center land use category of the General Plan 2020."


http://www.oreillyauto.com/site/c/home.oap


• Approved a major site plan for construction of a 13,153-square-feet industrial storage building for CYC Seed Co., a part of Fertizona, at 3085 N. Cessna Ave. in the airport industrial park.

The seed company recently purchased the Atko Building Supply business at that site and has retro-fitted the existing buildings to accommodate its alfa seed coating business.


http://www.fertizona.com/cycseedco.html


Three finalists for east side sewer line project

(Posted Aug. 7, 2014)


You'll find the full request for qualifications, including a map showing how sewer lines in that area tie into each other, at

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/files/2013/04/Complete.pdf


The ranking list is HERE


Six companies have responded to a city request for qualifications for a construction manager at risk to oversee building of a 3.6-mile sewer line east of Interstate 10 that would initially serve the proposed PhoenixMart project but would be upsized to provide capacity for future residential and industrial/commercial growth in the area.

After evaluations of the responses, three of the companies have been asked to appear for later interviews, a city posting says.

Those three are Haydon Building Corp., Achen-Gardner Construction and PCL Construction. The other three are CSW Contractors, Gamey Construction and T&T Construction Inc.

Interview dates are not listed in the posting.

PhoenixMart needs a 21-inch sewer line to service its 500-plus acres east of the Promenade mall. Because the city wants to be able to serve future development on the east side, it will upsize the line to provide future capacity.

It's a matter of doing it all at once, rather than a few years from now have to excavate for a new, larger line.

The overall project, including any land acquisition costs, is projected to cost up to $10 million, the City Council was told during earlier briefings. Under the agreement, PhoenixMart is to pay $4.8 million in three installments as the project progresses. The city will fund the rest out of money already collected from development impact fees and construction sales tax.

The sewer rate increase recently approved by the City Council is not connected to PhoenixMart or the line upsizing, city officials have said. Money collected from that increase will go toward operating costs and bond payments for the city sewer treatment plant.

The request says the construction manager at risk will "provide preconstruction services up to and including creation of a guaranteed maximum price for construction and then execute construction of the project."

The project is described as "intended to provide for the construction of approximately 21,200 linear feet (3.6 miles) of large-diameter gravity sewer pipeline. The pipeline is tentatively planned to be installed within rights-of-way and/or easements along one of the potential alignments (either Kortsen Road or Florence Boulevard east of I-10). These easements/rights-of-way are to be procured by the city prior to construction. 

"The project will involve jack and bore crossing through existing Arizona Department of Transportation right- of-way for Interstate 10 freeway, the remainder of the project is anticipated to be constructed using typical trenching operations. Several crossings of facilities owned and or operated by the Hohokam Irrigation & Drainage District may also be required. 

"All appurtenant and ancillary work and materials required for the construction of the proposed pipeline are intended to provided by the selected CMAR."

The request for qualifications says responsibilities of the construction manager include:

• Preliminary cost estimating to be used for determination of final line-sizing of the complete alignment.

• Provide input regarding means and methods which may reduce costs and improve constructability.

• Provide for construction phasing and scheduling that minimizes land acquisition costs

• Provide long-lead procurement studies and initiate procurement of long-lead items as

may be directed.

• Participate in permitting processes (with ADOT, the irrigation district, Kinder Morgan natural gas, etc.) 

• Input regarding material selection 

• Provide input regarding alternate solutions/methods which may reduce costs and

improve constructability.

During earlier briefings, the city said there are two possible routes for the line on the east side of I-10: east along Kortsen Road or jogging south and then east along Florence Boulevard.

"I believe Kortsen Road would be the preferred line at this particular time," Deputy City Manager Larry Rains told the City Council during a May briefing, "but there's still a fair amount of analysis that has to be done."


Insurance brokerage contract expected to save
money in staff time, make it easier for employees

(Posted Aug. 6, 2014)



You'll find the staff report HERE


Leavitt Group Services of Arizona:

http://www.leavitt.com/About/CompanyOverview.aspx



A new insurance brokerage contract will save Casa Grande money by cutting the time involved in handling paperwork and will make it easier for employees to sign up or change insurance sections, the City Council was told Monday night.

Putting the broker services out to bid is a yearly occurrence for the city.

As the staff report accompanying the agenda item puts it, "Each year the city’s insurance broker enters into insurance premium negotiations so that we can continue to provide quality health care benefits to our employees which meet the ever changing Affordable Care Act mandates while still maintaining affordable premiums. 

"In order to successfully negotiate those premiums, it is essential that we have immediate access to our usage rates, encourage preventative care and offer wellness initiatives that educate and inspire employees to take care of themselves and their families. It is also essential that we have access to legal professionals who specialize in health care law as well as healthy-living specialists in order to meet our goal of a healthy employee base."

Human Resources  Director Dawn Jett told the council that six companies had responded to the city's request, of which three were asked to come for interviews.

Those three, and their bids, were Leavitt Group, $68,400; Lockton Companies, $79,000; Mahoney Group, $52,000.

The others were Arthur Gallagher & Co., $79,200; CBIZ, $80,000; Holmes Murphy, $36,000.

It is not always the case that the lowest bidder is selected. It depends upon which company the city believes will best fill its needs.

In this case, Leavitt Group was chosen, receiving initial approval of a one-year contract. Final approval is expected during the next council meeting.

"The (interview) panel identified Leavitt Group as the top selection, based on their ability to provide us a level of service that the city currently requires," Jett said.

She said that among the company's offerings are that:

• It will provide ongoing utilizations reports on a regular basis.

• It has a team of professional negotiators and a pool of clients which will allow them to negotiate lower insurance premiums.

• It also has in-house wellness physicians and an an in-house legal and compliance staff.

"Finally," Jett said, "Leavitt Group has an on-line open enrollment system that does not require us to hire third-party vendors or purchase a platform system in order to utilize it.

This will eliminate the need for paper enrollment and make the enrollment process much easier and more user friendly for our staff and their dependents.

"In addition, this will save us approximately 120 staff hours per year, which is the time we spend currently doing open enrollment on paper each year."

According to the staff report, "Leavitt currently provides insurance brokerage services to several Arizona municipalities and reference checks were very positive."


Monday night's actions by the City Council

(Posted Aug. 4, 2014)


You will find the agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


These actions were taken by the City Council during Monday night's meeting:


• Because of concerns about possible flooding across the property and adjoining areas and on traffic, tabled requests for major amendments to the 97-acre Santa Cruz Crossing mixed-used project at the southeast corner of Trekell and Rodeo roads. The original planned area development was approved in 2006, but languished during the economic downturn. The delay is to give time to provide the council with additional information.

• Gave initial approval to the request for a zone change to general business to allow a Valero gasoline station and market, along with a car wash, on the north side of Florence Boulevard west of the junction with Camino Mercado, which would be extended to the north of Florence. The council was told that construction is expected to be completed this year.

• Gave initial approval to a $68,400 contract for insurance broker services with Leavitt Group Services of Arizona.

• Approved a resolution approving an intergovernmental agreement with Pinal County for leasing of Public Works equipment and/or services.

• Approved a resolution authorizing a delegation agreement with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality giving the city the authority to review and approve projects for water and wastewater infrastructure.

• Approved a resolution to accept a federal grant of up to $100,000 for updating the city airport's layout plan.

• Gave final approval for adoption security and noncompliances fees for City Court.

• Gave final approval to spending $444,806 to rebuild the compactor at the city landfill rather than spending more than $1 million to replace it.


City seeking streetlights maintenance help

(Posted July 31, 2014)


The request is HERE


How to report streetlight and other problems is at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/publicworks/service-request/



It's much like the lights in or around your house. They tend to burn out -- and usually at the most inconvenient time.

Casa Grande has about 3,600 streetlights in its 104-square-mile boundary, all requiring routine or as-needed work, but doesn't have the staff for continued maintenance.

A request for proposals has been issued seeking a contractor for that work, running from Oct. 1 of this year until Sept. 30, 2019. The responses must be submitted to the city by Sept. 2.

According to the request, "Historically, the streetlights were owned and operated by the parent utility companies. In 1990, the city purchased streetlight facilities from one of the parent utility companies. The city still buys energy from the parent utility company to run the streetlight facilities. 

"There are roughly 3,600 city-owned streetlights in the system, which requires routine and as-needed maintenance. The streetlights are typically present on streetlights poles owned by the city. Some of the streetlights may also be present on parent company electric distribution poles or poles owned by other entities under contract with the city. 

"The city currently does not have the staff and/or equipment to maintain all the streetlight system. Currently, the parent utility company is under a contract to operate and maintain city’s streetlight facilities within its service territory."

Those electric companies include Arizona Public Service and the electrical/irrigation districts.

The request says that in addition to regular maintenance, the winning bidder will provide "services for emergency work, which may include replacement of poles and fixtures associated with damage caused by vehicle collisions, storms, or other events. The city-owned street lights within the public right of way are intended to be covered by the services requested in the scope of this contract.

"Parties agree that street light maintenance services shall include city-owned pole numbering on new or replacement streetlights, customer service/dispatch, night patrols, standard circuit breakers and photocells and spot relamping, where applicable. The city may also need assistance with claims while collecting for damages from other parties who have damaged city streetlight facilities. 

"Additional as-needed city-authorized work may also be required such as emergency repair or replacement of poles and fixtures, replacement or group replacement of non-functional lights with energy efficient lights, i.e. LEDs, and relocation or upgrades of facilities, solar powered lighting, motion sensors, light shielding, etc., concrete work, blacktop work and landscaping restoration associated with pole replacement. 

"Items outside of the scope of streetlight maintenance services include, but are not limited to, underground cable repair and/or replacement, leaning poles and pole painting."


New landfill compactor is more than $1 million,
rebuilding present one is $444,806. Are there
any questions about decision for a rehabbing?

(Posted July 27, 2014)


The staff report is HERE


The rebuild cost list is HERE


The total cost breakdown is HERE


The rental terms are HERE



The situation with the expensive compactor at the city landfill is similar to your car's engine -- when it reaches its useful life do you buy a new one or do you have it rebuilt for about half the cost?

The landfill compactor is beyond the recommended useful life of 10,000 hours. To replace it would cost more than a million dollars. To rebuild it, including a contingency to cover any unforeseen problems, would be $444,806, including two months rental of a loaner compactor. The City Council opted for the "second life" rebuild, giving initial approval during its last meeting.

The compactor now has more than 11,200 hours of use, but replacing the steel compaction teeth gave the city another year of life, Public Works Director Kevin Louis told the council.

"But it's now reached its point where we need to evaluate whether to go out and purchase a new one or move forward with this rebuild of our existing vehicle," he said. "Staff has gone through the analysis and determined that the cost-effective direction to go is to have this vehicle rebuilt by Caterpillar Empire Equipment."

According to the staff report on the agenda item, "After 10,000 hours of operation, Caterpillar recommends the compactor either be replaced with a new machine or undergo a major rebuild of power train, hydraulics and cab (certified power train plus rebuild) for a second life of operation. The certified rebuild is projected to provide an additional 10,000 hours of operation. The certified rebuild comes with a one year warranty."

The present compactor is needing more and more repairs, Louis said.

"In 2009 it was $12,000 worth of repair costs," he continued. "In 2010 it was $32,000. In 2011 it was only $19,000, not sure why that dip. In 2012 it was $39,000. And well over $40,000 for this last fiscal year in repairs."

The recommendation for the rebuild was based on cost of a replacement, the staff report said, adding that, "The estimated cost for a new Caterpillar 836K compactor with tax is $1,028,300. This includes a discount, estimated trade-in value of the city’s existing compactor and a 10 percent contingency for potential price adjustment," versus a maximum of $444,806 for the rebuild.

Used compactors of the same model are available, but the cost to rebuild them would have to be added to the purchase cost.

The same model, but from 2006 rather than 2009 for the present city compactor, is available from a dealer in Arizona at a cost of $380,000. It has 10,780 hours on it (or 780 more than the recommended useful life) and the condition of the components is listed as good, rather than very good or new.

There's another important cost to any down time, Louis pointed out.

"Anytime this piece of equipment does go down, we call it Mission Critical," he said. "We did come up with what I'll call a conservative cost of having this piece of equipment down.

"We basically looked at our useful life of our landfill, how many cubic yards we have left before we fill that thing up. And we looked at the compaction that is lost when you use the D9 bulldozer that we have out there as a backup piece of equipment. It's about a 55 percent loss in compaction."

Compaction is critical. In simple terms, the less trash is compacted, the quicker the landfill reached capacity.

"We basically took our costs, the revenues that are generated from our cubic yards going into the landfill at today's costs," Louis said.

"For instance, if we go forward with this rebuild and not rent the piece of equipment of equivalent size, the cost would be $471,000.

"This past year, we were down 22 days of operation with repairs on this piece of equipment and that equates to about $216,000 of lost revenue potentially in the landfill at full buildout."

Councilwoman Mary Kortsen questioned the 25 percent contingency in the rebuild amount.

Louis replied that, "Basically, Caterpillar has done an evaluation of our piece of equipment but until they start really getting down inside that piece of equipment to see what kind of wear and tear there has been on this hydraulic system, transmission, those types of things.

"They really don't know all the pieces that will need to be replaced in order for them to say this is a second life certified piece of equipment that now has an additional useful life of five years or 10,000 hours plus. So that's where they come up with that additional cost, they just don't know. So we take a very conservative look at that and say what do we think would be worst scenario and that's the $444,806 number that we have."

And if the final estimate comes to more than $444,806?

"If we find ourselves at a point where, oops, we missed something and we're not sure what it's going to cost and it could potentially go over, then, yes, this would come back to City Council on some type of an emergency type request," Louis said.

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons and Councilman Dick Powell questioned whether there would be an extended warranty, as was the case when the present compactor was purchased in 2009.

"We had a one-year warranty on the new piece of equipment in 2009," Louis responded.  "Built into the price was an additional warranty that we purchased through that purchase price, which was five years or 7,500 hours. Of course, our hours are much higher than that. If you look at the age of our piece of equipment where we're at 11,200 hours, this thing is used from morning to night out there at the landfill, including Saturdays. So this is our workhorse.

"When we originally looked at the new purchase of this equipment in 2009, we did see a benefit and we purchased the extended warranty. However, on a second-life vehicle it's much more expensive. 

"When we started to look at what were the potential risks associated with not having that extended warranty, we could not weigh the cost so we decided on the included one-year warranty. Most of those major components are going to fail during that one-year period. Just like any new car, you can have those major components fail at that time, or at least see where things are starting to track and be able to take the corrective action. We just didn't, we couldn't justify that cost at this time."

The rebuild time is estimated at two months, during which time the city is renting a compactor at a cost of $34,000 a month. If rebuild goes past two months, Caterpillar will cover the cost from then on.

With that high of a rental cost, Councilman Matt Herman said, he'd like to know how much idle  time there would be.

"We get reports every 160 hours of operation," Louis replied. "We get all of those reports from Caterpillar and during the last 160 hours, we used 7.6 hours of idle time. That's 95 percent operating rate. They were surprised at that number, as well.

"Now if you ever visit the landfill -- and I urge you all to come out, it's a great, wonderful place -- they do a lot of interaction with the residents who come out there and do their own dumping. So they're out there explaining where to dump, and of course that takes time. But for the most part, they are operating that piece of equipment from start to finish (of the day).

"You have your post-trip cool down and check out period, which also adds to that idle time, but I think we're very efficient."


Two new City Court fees get initial approval

(Posted July 21, 2014)


You'll find the staff reports for both fees by clicking on the agenda, found at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/



Initial approval was given Monday night to two Casa Grande City Court fees aimed at lessening the financial impact on taxpayers from court operations.

The first is a compliance recovery fee of $50 to be assessed against offenders who fail to comply with the orders of the court without good cause. The second is a court security fee of $20 to be assessed when a defendant enters into a time payment contract for the payment of a fine assessed for any criminal or civil offense.


Compliance fee

As the staff report on the compliance fee indicates, "Whenever the court issues an order, such as when the court sentences an offender to fines, probation, jail or a counseling program, the court carries the responsibility to monitor the defendant's behavior and enforce compliance with the court's orders. 

"In order to monitor compliance, the court maintains several thousand files for defendants who have ongoing obligations to the court as a part of their sentences after judgment has been entered. The court must independently review each of these files to ensure compliance with any and all of the court's orders and to take appropriate action for the purpose of enforcement. To that end, the court analyzes all compliance files on a monthly basis.

"When it appears that a defendant has failed to comply with an order, the court issues an order to show cause, which requires the defendant to appear and explain why the defendant violated the order. When the defendant appears, the court conducts a hearing to determine whether there was good cause for the defendant's failure to comply. If the defendant has willfully violated an order, the defendant is in contempt and the court will impose sanctions. In all cases, the court must then determine the appropriate action to ensure compliance in the future.

"The court issues hundreds of orders to show cause every month and conducts dozens of hearings each week in relation to noncompliance with court orders. These efforts demand a great deal of the court's attention, time and resources. The costs of the court's enforcement efforts are paid entirely out of the General Fund, and are therefore borne by taxpayers."


Security fee

The reason for a court security fee, the staff report for that agenda item outlines, is that when the court building was opened in August 2011 security enhancement was a major goal.

"The court utilizes a security guard, an X-ray machine, a magnetometer and a handheld wand," the report says. "Although it is difficult to place a value on the security of the court, each of these security measures carries with it an expense. All of the court's security expenses are currently paid out of the city's General Fund and represent a growing burden on court resources and taxpayer money.

"In 2012, court security screened 31,592 patrons. In 2013, that number increased to 38,436. This number, and all of its associated expenses, will likely continue to increase in 2014."

The first draft of the proposal presented by City Magistrate Christopher O’Neil to the City Council at an earlier session indicated that the fee would apply to all persons using the court. O'Neil later modified that to exclude persons entering the building simply to pay fines or for other routine items.

"That carve out was to exclude those individuals who simply want to mail in or just come by and drop off the payment of a fine, such as a civil traffic fine," O'Neil told the council Monday night.

"Also carved out was those people who excise their right to a hearing or trial, but at that point simply pay their fine and take care of it.

"The goal was to have a carve out that was broad as opposed to narrow in that way and exclude those people who are less of a drain on the court security resources. It is designed to be a cost recovery fee and we wanted to limit that as much as possible to those who … are potentially contributing to those costs."

For those unable to pay, O'Neil said, community service could be an option.

"We have a very robust, and I think very advanced, system for evaluating ability to pay," he said, "and those defendants who have no ability to pay are always authorized to perform community service towards their fines at the time they enter into the time payment contract."


In other action Monday night, the council:

• Gave initial approval to spending $444,806 to rebuild the compactor at the city landfill rather than pay more than $1 million for a replacement.

• Gave initial approval to abandoning excess right of way along the Thornton Road alignment at Sundance RV Park.

• Watched as checks to veterans help groups were presented by Ride for the Warrior, which held a fundraising event earlier this year.


Commercial projects coming to Casa Grande

(Posted July 20, 2014)


The announcement is HERE


The Planning and Zoning Commission will consider requests for more commercial development in the city when it meets Aug. 7.

The requests are:

• Major site plan/final development plan for a proposed 6,972-square-foot O'Reilly Auto Parts store at 1426 E. Florence Blvd.

• Request for a conditional use permit and major site plan for a 3.616-square-foot convenience food restaurant with a drive-thru at 2473 E. Florence Blvd. 

• A major site plan for development of a 6,023-square-foot multi-tenant retail building at 2463 E. Florence Blvd.

(Both are within the commercial area of Mission Royale planned area development.)

•  A major amendment to an approved major site plan to allow the addition of a new industrial warehouse of approximately 15,300 square feet for CYC Seed Co., 3085 N. Cessna Ave.


-:-


Not on the Aug. 7 agenda but in the works are two businesses for the long vacant shopping area at the northwest corner of Trekell and Rodeo roads. They are listed as Dollar General and Revolution Gymnasium. Not indication has yet been given as to opening dates.


June jobless rate in Casa Grande at 8.4 percent

(Posted July 17, 2014)


Unemployment in June rose in Casa Grande and in other area cities, statistics posted Thursday by the Arizona Department of Administration show.

 Casa Grande had a jobless rate of 8.4 percent during June, up from 6.8 during May. 

The statistics for Casa Grande showed 1,773 people out of work during June, up from 1,422 for May. 

Part of the increase in Casa Grande and other cities is the normal summer drop in jobs, but by contrast Casa Grande had a 4 percent jobless rate for June 2007, the year before the economy crashed. 

Pinal County had a June rate of 8.1 percent jobless (11,532 without work), up from 6.8 (9,596) during May. The June 2007 rate was 4.2.

In the past, statistics from the state included unincorporated areas and Indian communities.

The state has now posted this notice: "Estimates for unincorporated cities and towns have been discontinued." The site refers users to outdated federal census statistics.

Other cities' statistics are:

Coolidge

7.7 percent jobless rate for June (363 unemployed), up from 6.5 percent (302) during May. The June 2007 rate was 7.7.

Eloy

12.6 rate for June (504 jobless), up from 10.7 (419) during May. The June 2007 rate was 6.4.

Florence

9.4 rate for June (299 jobless), up from 8.7 during May (274). The June 2007 rate was 4.2.

Maricopa city

7.4 rate for June (1,490 jobless), up from 6.3 during May (1,262). The June 2007 rate was 4.7.


Kortsen interchange public hearing on July 23

(Posted July 16, 2014)


A public open house is scheduled for Wednesday, July 23, to provide information and get public comments on the proposed traffic interchange at Kortsen Road and Interstate 10, the city said.

The meeting will be from 5:30-7 p.m., with a brief presentation at 6 p.m.

"The city of Casa Grande has contracted Jacobs Engineering to conduct a traffic interchange study," the announcement said. "The purpose of the new traffic interchange will be to address projected increases in traffic resulting from population growth, residential development and business development including PhoenixMart."

The announcement said the study will evaluate the potential impact of anticipated growth and development and propose alternatives to help address the increasing traffic demand to and from I-10 in the Florence Boulevard corridor and in eastern Casa Grande.

"Presentation materials regarding the study will be available at the open house and study team representatives will be available to discuss your concerns and answer your questions on a one-on-one basis," the city said. "The studies, to date, have considered traffic demand, environmental concerns and preliminary traffic interchange designs."

Kortsen Road has been chosen because of Arizona Department of Transportation requirements of mileage between interchanges. Because there is an interchange at Florence Boulevard, another at Cottonwood Lane would not be allowed.

"Public input is an important part of the process and comments provided will help the study team fully understand public issues and make informed decisions regarding the study," the city said.

The city said a study website has been set up at www.casagrandeaz.gov/KortsenRoadInterchange to provide further information and details.

"If you are unable to attend, you can send your comments via email to michael.okamoto@jacobs.com," the announcement said. "Please subject your message as I-10/Kortsen Road Traffic Interchange Public Meeting 1."  

Comments are due by Friday, Aug. 8.


UPDATE:
The PhoenixMart logo statue request was approved Tuesday night, July 15, by the Board of Adjustment with only member Gordon Beck in opposition.

PhoenixMart logo statue request delayed a week

(Posted July 8, 2014)



Revised staff report for July 15 is
HERE

Original agenda is HERE

Original staff report is HERE

Artist concept is HERE

The logo in color HERE


Because of confusion over the wording in accompanying documents about previously approved monument signs, raising the question of whether any action would be approving more signs, and questions about the the height of a PhoenixMart logo statue in relation to the grade of the highway in front, action on the request for the statue was set over for a week Tuesday night by the Board of Adjustment.

That meeting will begin at 6 p.m., July 15, in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.

Although the suggestion was made Tuesday night that wording for approval of the 14-foot logo statue could be changed to clarify questions and confusion, the board opted for the delay.

The statue would be part of the entranceway to the proposed PhoenixMart, which would be north of Florence Boulevard east of Toltec Buttes Road.

PhoenixMart has said that the logo statue is needed "to enhance the visual intent of vibrancy and brand identification" of the project.

Wording in the staff report said, "The landmark includes the 14' PhoenixMart logo, two monument signs and landscaping. The proposed entry monument wall signs are 12 feet tall and 52 feet wide."

PhoenixMart has submitted a comprehensive sign plan to the city for its review. The city is also processing a final landscape plan and the final development plan/major site plan.


Hobbs zoning denial appeal to be heard Aug. 4

AUG. 6 UPDATE: The city said Hobbs has withdrawn her request for a zone change.


(Posted July 14, 2014)


The public notice is HERE


The Hobbs zone change staff report is HERE




An appeal by Jan Hobbs against the Planning Commission decision July 1 to deny a zone change request from single-family residential to commercial office to allow a real estate office at 1101 E. Sunset Drive will be heard by the City Council on Aug. 4 a public notice posted today by the city indicates.

The Hobbs site, with a 1,959-square-foot single-family home and an 832-square-foot guest house, is now zoned for residential, leading to Hobbs' request for a zone change to commercial office. 

The hearing will be during the regular City Council meeting beginning at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.

Also to be heard are:

• A request for a zone change to general business to allow a Valero gasoline station and market, along with a car wash, on the north side of Florence Boulevard west of the junction with Camino Mercado, which would be extended to the north of Florence.

• Requests for major amendments to the 97-acre Santa Cruz Crossing mixed-used project at the southeast corner of Trekell and Rodeo roads. The original planned area development was approved in 2006, but languished during the economic downturn. 


No more one-size-fits-all with manhole repair;
contract calls for closer individual evaluations

(Posted July 13, 2014)


The staff report for initial approval is HERE. Final approval came during the next City Council meeting.


The pricing list is HERE.


Casa Grande has about 280 miles of sewer lines. Learn what you can do to help keep them clean and efficient:

http://youtu.be/Zpi8jtChoh4


Scroll down for earlier story on sewerlines cleaning contract.




The $400,000 manhole repair and rehabilitation contract given final approval during the last City Council meeting calls for a new system of deciding what needs to be taken care of and how among the city's 4,500 sewer manholes.

"Recently, we went through an evaluation of our manhole rehabilitation program and determined that the process that we were following, which was a one-size-fits-all, just wasn't working, we're weren't accomplishing what we had intended to accomplish with our maintenance efforts," Public Works Director Kevin Louis told the council.

"So we did go through a process of evaluating job order contracts. And what this does, is it gives staff the opportunity to work with the contractor and have a list of maintenance items that we can do, based on the evaluation of each individual manhole. That'll give us more flexibility to work and get the most benefit from we're spending out there for our maintenance now."

According to the staff report accompanying the agenda item, "Historically the program has been focused on utilizing a limited scope of means and methods for rehabilitation of manholes with minor to moderate damage. Manholes with potentially significant damage or deterioration were often not adequately addressed, as the means and methods were inappropriate to rehabilitate them.

"To better identify and rehabilitate damaged manholes, the program has been modified to provide improvements throughout the program. These include improvements in inspection methods and utilization of a qualified contractor able to provide a wide variety of rehabilitation techniques as may be appropriate for any situation on a job-order basis."

Louis said that when he began with the city eight years ago there was an aggressive program for repair and rehabilitation.

"Again, it was a one-size-fits-all and we're just taking a fresh look at that," he added. "With the new job order contracting opportunities it does give us that flexibility to really look at the most cost-effective way to maintain the system."

Councilman Dick Powell asked what percentage of the city manholes could be covered by $400,000.

"It really varies, and not a very easy question to answer," Louis responded. "With a typical rehab of a manhole with our past process, which is coating of the inside of it, it's about $2,500 per manhole. But some manholes, because of the increased deterioration in the condition of them, we can spent up to four or five thousand per manhole. Some we can do less efforts, in the neighborhood of $1,000 or $1,500. It just depends."

The contract calls for the city to go through an evaluation of each manhole with the contractor to come up with the best plan.

Powell asked how long repair and rehabilitation of manholes lasts.

"It will vary, depending on the part of the system that it's in the type of construction that was used originally," Louis replied, "but we should be looking at 10 to 15 years before you have to go back in and do anything to that manhole."

Mayor Bob Jackson noted that, "Just doing the arithmetic on the numbers, it sounds like you could probably do somewhere around 150 manholes. I think it important to understand that you're fixing about 100, 150 of them and there are probably several thousand in the system, so it will take awhile."

As Councilman Matt Herman saw it, "This is one of those unglamorous things, but it's one of our biggest assets, following our roads. People don't realize that maintenance is so important on it, because if you let it go and then you're stuck with a million-dollar bill one year instead of keeping up with everything."

Louis said the rule of thumb in Public Works "is that every one dollar you spend on maintenance saves you about $10 on replacement."

Answering a question from Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons about repair times, Louis said, "Each manhole is unique, the environmental conditions that it exists in. If we've got areas where there's high H2S obviously that deterioration is going to increase and is going to do more damage. We will take a period of time to go through a detailed evaluation of each manhole before we make a decision on what process we're going to us. That will add some time, but in the big scheme of things it won't really matter."

It has been pointed out during discussions about sewer line cleaning that H2S is hydrogen sulfide, which is corrosive and which also causes the smell from sewers.

"We'll go through the evaluation process and then we'll generate those work orders internally to the contractor and they'll perform based on the scope and fees identified in these work orders," Louis said. "And we'll do those multiple times. We'll pick an area, identify, move forward, go and evaluate the next area, move forward and just track what our fund balances are as we move forward."

The contract calls for:

• Performance of manhole evaluations/assessments – investigation and reporting of conditions of existing manholes and recommendations for appropriate repairs.

• Cleaning of existing manholes, including removal and disposal of debris.

• Repair of existing concrete substrate and/or preparation for coating.

• Application of approved system designed for structural rehabilitation of concrete

manholes.

• Application of an approved manhole coating system.

• Installation/application of structural liner system.

• Repairs to concrete manhole base/bench.

• Removal and replacement of existing manhole, including surface restoration.

• Removal and replacement of frame, cover, and concrete collar.

• Pavement replacement.

• Traffic control plans and setups.


Pine-Sol just won't cut it for cleaning
Casa Grande's miles of sewer piping

Posted Feb. 2, 2014)


The memo on the manhole failures is HERE


Maps of the sewer cleaning areas are HERE


Sewer cleaning staff report is HERE



Sorry, Pine-Sol.

Your product you say has been "cleaning what stinks since 1929" won't cut it when it comes to Casa Grande's sewer pipes, both for smell and causes of corrosion.

Besides, with Casa Grande having 280 miles of sewer, 4,500 manholes and nine lift stations it would take truckloads of your product and umpteen hours of time to trickle it down the openings.

The city has opted to hire Ancon for this year's sewer cleaning and has posted a request for qualifications for contractors to rehabilitate manholes.

The cleaning and rehabilitation of manholes is a must for the city, shown by a $62,450 emergency spending agenda item for Monday night's City Council meeting to replace eight of them along the railroad tracks between Thornton Road and Cottonwood Lane. They have failed, the staff report says, because of hydrogen sulfide corrosion and stress caused by heavy farming equipment and Salt River Project equipment used in installing a power line.

The sewer line cleaning, to begin in early March for about six months, will cover 138,000 linear feet of line at a cost of $59,604. That's a bit more than 26 miles, or if you're a horse racing fan a bit more than 200 furlongs.

(TRIVIA: The furlong wasn't always just an arcane unit of measure that horseracing fans gabbed about; it once had significance as the length of the furrow a team of oxen could plow in a day. In 1592, the English Parliament set about determining the length of the mile and decided that each one should be made up of eight furlongs. Since a furlong was 660 feet, we ended up with a 5,280-foot mile.)

Anyway, back to sewers.

The total amount of the contract is up to $142,000, The staff report says that allows for cleaning the 138,175 linear feet of pipeline "and approximately 225,000 linear feet of additional gravity sewers can be cleaned under this project within the remaining budget available for this project. This additional work shall be evaluated and prioritized by the Public Works Department as funding allows."

The importance of cleaning, the staff report says, is that it will reduce hydrogen sulfide (H2S) levels, both in the lines and at the sewage treatment plant.

"This reduction in H2S levels will reduce the adverse impact that high concentrations of H2S can have on the collection system (pipelines, manholes, and lift stations) as well as the odor control system equipment at the plant," it says. "It will also help reduce the complaints from residents regarding sewer odors throughout the city. We are using a contractor for the large diameter sewer as the city does not have the proper equipment to do this work at this time."

The City Council has previously been told that the equipment for cleaning the large lines is so expensive that it is not cost effective to buy it.

That hydrogen sulfide in the lines not only creates odors, but does nasty stuff to the manholes. The H2S, helped by age and stormwater flow, weakens the structure.

That was a leading cause of the failures of the eight manholes along the railroad tracks, leading to the $62,450 repair bill on Monday's City Council agenda.

A memo from city engineer Terrence McKeon explains it this way:

"Recently it was discovered that manholes on the 18-inch PVC sewer line which runs parallel to the UPRR west of Thornton are very badly deteriorated and have suffered almost total structural failure. The current condition of these manholes leaves them subject to immediate and imminent danger of collapse and also poses the threat of plugging the existing sewerline completely by falling debris. This existing sewer line and manholes are approximately six feet in depth. 

"It had been noted previously that these manholes were in poor condition, and it was planned to address these under the annual rehabilitation program. Recent activity by SRP in constructing their new overhead high-voltage transmission lines appears to have placed excessive loading on these manholes, thereby causing unanticipated structural failure of these manholes. 

"This pipeline is believed to have been constructed in 1985. The concrete of the existing manholes and bases has suffered severe damage from sulfuric acid as a result of high levels of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) throughout the 28-plus-year life of the pipeline."

The full memo is HERE

PhoenixMart logo statue request delayed a week

(Posted July 8, 2014)


Revised staff report for July 15 is HERE    

Original agenda is HERE

Original staff report is HERE

Artist concept is HERE


Because of confusion over the wording in accompanying documents about previously approved monument signs, raising the question of whether any action would be approving more signs, and questions about the the height of a PhoenixMart logo statue in relation to the grade of the highway in front, action on the request for the statue was set over for a week Tuesday night by the Board of Adjustment.

That meeting will begin at 6 p.m., July 15, in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.

Although the suggestion was made Tuesday night that wording for approval of the 14-foot logo statue could be changed to clarify questions and confusion, the board opted for the delay.

The statue would be part of the entranceway to the proposed PhoenixMart, which would be north of Florence Boulevard east of Toltec Buttes Road.

PhoenixMart has said that the logo statue is needed "to enhance the visual intent of vibrancy and brand identification" of the project.

Wording in the staff report said, "The landmark includes the 14' PhoenixMart logo, two monument signs and landscaping. The proposed entry monument wall signs are 12 feet tall and 52 feet wide."

PhoenixMart has submitted a comprehensive sign plan to the city for its review. The city is also processing a final landscape plan and the final development plan/major site plan.


City property taxes remain the same this year

(Posted July 7, 2014)


Casa Grande's primary and secondary property tax rates for the fiscal year that began July 1 were approved Monday night by the City Council, remaining at 99.99 cents per hundred dollars of assessed valuation for the primary rate and 63.08 cents per hundred as the secondary, both the same as last year.

Finance Director Doug Sandstrom told the council that the primary tax will raise about $3,251,900, which goes to the city General Fund and can be used for any city purpose.

The secondary tax, he said, will raise about $2,110,300 and can be used only to pay off voter-authorized bonds.

The combined tax rate will be $1.63 per hundred, raising about $5.4 million, Sandstrom said, which is about 7 percent of the city's total operational revenue.

"Due to declining assessed valuations, that rate of 99.99 cents per hundred actually will bring in $14,000 less this year than it did in the prior year," Sandstrom said. 

"Our assessed valuation has leveled off this current fiscal year, it dropped less than 1 percent.

Since fiscal year 2011 we have had a 27 percent drop in our assessed valuation, so it's good to see that it's bottoming out and holding steady and maybe we'll start to see that go up."

Sandstrom pointed out that of the overall property tax that residents will receive from Pinal County, "only 11 percent of that property tax is because of the city tax rates. The school districts comprise about 55 percent of the typical county bill," with the rest being other taxing agencies.


Will community center action pick up the pace?

(Posted July 7, 2014)


On again, off again discussions about building a multigenerational community recreation center seem to be on again.

Building of a center was among bond issues approved by city voters in 2006, but with the stipulation that it would be the final project of the issue, which included a new public safety facility, fire station, modernization of the downtown library and Len Colla Center and improvements at the city golf course.

Land on the west side of Peart Road south of Kortsen Road has been donated by the Gilbert family.

The city has said several times that while it has the money from the bond issue to build the center, at a cost of $12 million to $16 million, the hangup is that there would be no money to run it without a city taxpayers subsidy that could run between $200,000 to $400,000 yearly.

At the end of Monday night's City Council meeting when members give brief reports, Councilman Ralph Varela said there have been discussions during council informational briefings "on how to become more creative in terms of getting that multigenerational facility back on track and coming up with a couple of good options and trying to put something back into action within the next six months."

Varela gave no details.

Councilman Dick Powell said, "We talked about the multigenerational recreational center and are really hopeful that we can find a partner so that we can afford to do that.

"I know where we are financially right now as a city we couldn't go out and hire new employees when we have ones that had to settle for a 1 percent raise this year.

"But I think that if we continue to look and try to find that partner that can come in and work with us on that, I think it would be a wonderful idea and I hope it does come to fruition."

Powell offered no further details of the discussions.

In other action Monday night, the council:

• Delayed until the next meeting an ordinance accepting a bid of $444,806 for rebuilding the compactor at the city landfill.

• Approved community partnership allocations of $75,000 to Access Arizona, $43,500 to Greater Casa Grande Chamber of Commerce, $39,150 to Casa Grande Main Street, $34,000 to Casa Grande Valley Historical Society, $20,000 to Pinal County Water Augmentation Authority and $100,000 to Boys and Girls Club of Casa Grande Valley.

• Approved requests to appoint City Court Administrator Dyani Juarez to a two-year term as deputy city magistrate and reappoint Bob Mitchell and Michael Beers to two-year terms as deputies.

• Appointed Frank Ricci to the Fire Personnel Retirement Board.

• Accepted a $19,785 state grant for the city victims' assistance program.

• Gave final approval of a $438,400 yearly contract for professional maintenance at the city golf course.

• Gave final approval of a $400,000 contract for rehabilitation of various manholes in the city.

• Gave final approval of updates to the city building, health and safety codes.


Preliminary plat for PhoenixMart subdividing OK'd;
more requests coming soon, P&Z Commission told

(Posted July 2, 2014)


The staff report, with details and conditions of approval, is HERE



The proposed PhoenixMart international wholesale sales showroom project two and a half miles east of Interstate 10 took another step forward Tuesday night as the Planning and Zoning Commission approved a preliminary plat allowing parent company AZ Sourcing to subdivide 234 acres of the 585-acre site into three parcels for initial development.

As Senior Planner Leila Demaree told the commission, lot number one, 129 acres, would be for the PhoenixMart building itself. Lot two, 15 acres, would be for a future high-density residential development. Lot three, 39 acres, would be for a hotel.

More actions will come soon for PhoenixMart, which is bounded by Florence Boulevard on the south, Cottonwood Lane on the north and Overfield and Signal Peak roads on the sides, Demaree said.

"After the approval of this preliminary plat, the three lots will go to the City Council for final plat approval," she said. "Also, the major site plan for lots one, two and three will be coming forward to the Planning Commission.

"The PhoenixMart major site plan, final development plan, is already in the pipeline and hopefully in the next couple of months it will be brought before the Planning Commission for your action.

"Staff is also reviewing the final landscape plan for phase one, and it will come with the final development plan. Lastly, staff is also reviewing a comprehensive sign plan for phase one."

PhoenixMart will be before the Board of Adjustment on July 8 to request approval to allow a 14-foot sculpture logo, about 154 square feet, prior to approval of the comprehensive sign plan.

Demaree pointed out to the commission that the traffic analysis found that two traffic signals will be required along Florence Boulevard as part of the PhoenixMart work.

"One of the signal lights required is at the intersection of Toltec Buttes Road and Florence Boulevard and the second will be at Hacienda Road intersection and Florence Boulevard," she said.

"The light off of Toltec Buttes Road will be fully financed by the PhoenixMart developer. The second traffic light will be financed by two development entities. PhoenixMart will be responsible for 25 percent at the intersection of Hacienda Road and Florence. The rest of the cost will be paid through the established Mission Royale Community Facilities District."

With the progress toward development, commission member Joel Braunstein brought up the question of fire protection.

"Way back when we first considered PhoenixMart the question of a fire department was brought up, talking about phasing in the fire department," he said. "Is the fire coverage adequate for this phase right now?"

Demaree said the nearest fire station is Station 2, east of Lowe's on Florence Boulevard, although there would eventually be another station east of the interstate as development grows.

"As far as I know, there is no concern from the Fire Department covering that area," she said.

Jeremy Schoenfelder, representing AZ Sourcing, told the commission that there are regular meetings with the Fire Department. "I can't quote minutes, but they were talking about response times at the last meeting, so I know that they're well aware of what the situation is," he said.

Schoenfelder pointed out that the the city will be working with an outside consultant to determine fire safety requirements at the main PhoenixMart building, which will be about 1.7 million square feet in size.

Commission member Brett Benedict asked what progress is being made on an agreement with Electrical District 2 to provide power to the site.

"Actually, we're progressing," Schoenfelder said. "I can't say that we have a final agreement with them yet. We've had a few back and forths, to be perfectly honest, but I think we're right about at the end. We've worked with them from a timing perspective, we've worked them to be able to order things ahead of finalizing agreements or right at finalizing agreements to try to mitigate time issues as much as possible. But I can't sit in front of you here today and say we have a finalized agreement. I do believe we're close, though."

Commission Chairman Jeff Lavender asked for a best guess as to when PhoenixMart might be open.

"I can't give a specific date for that because of the offsite issues that did go into that," Schoenfelder responded. "The building itself is, I'll say, the least of our concerns from a timing perspective and the outside utilities are more of a critical path for us. Working through that is going to dictate time more than anything else.

"From a construction perspective, we expect to be doing major site work in fall of this year. We already have a little bit of, I'll call it mini work, as we speak and we expect to be able to keep work going on. We want to make sure that everybody understands that we're continuing to move forward and progressing to be able to go full bore.

"My best guess at this point would be late 2015 or early 2016, but to be any more accurate than that would be a guess at this point."


Request for office in residential area denied

(Posted July 1, 2014)


You'll find the agenda at 

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/

Clicking on staff reports on the page will bring up supporting documents.


The Planning and Zoning Commission took the following actions during a three and a half hour meeting Tuesday night:

• Denied a request from Jan Hobbs for an insurance business office in a home at 1101 E. Sunset Drive, just east of Trekell Road. The site, with a 1,959-square-foot single-family home and an 832-square-foot guest house, is now zoned for residential, leading to Hobbs' request for a zone change to commercial office. The denial allows Hobbs to appeal the decision to the City Council. 

• Approved a conditional use permit for a Valero gasoline station and market, along with a car wash, on the north side of Florence Boulevard west of the junction with Camino Mercado, which would be extended to the north of Florence. The commission also sent a favorable recommendation to the City Council for a zone change from urban ranch to general business and a favorable recommendation for a major site plan. Commission member Mike Henderson, saying he believed the site plan presentation did not contain enough information, voted against. Also approved was a preliminary plat for the site.

• Sent a favorable recommendation to the City Council for major amendments to the 97-acre Santa Cruz Crossing mixed-used project at the southeast corner of Trekell and Rodeo roads. The original planned area development was approved in 2006, but languished during the economic downturn. The latest proposal includes adding an assisted living facility as a permitted use, removing an office area, relocating the high-density single-family area further south on the property and reclassifying it as "senior patio homes," adding a two-story senior apartment complex and adding a community center.

• At the request of PhoenixMart's parent company, AZ Sourcing, approved a preliminary plat to subdivide to create three lots on 234 acres of the 585-acre site, located between Overfield and Signal Peak roads, north of Florence Boulevard, south of Cottonwood Lane. The proposed lots would be used for the development of the PhoenixMart site, a mixed-use site  and a high density residential site, the staff report says.

• Approved a conditional use permit for a 1,904-square-foot mobile home on property at 3244 E. Cornman Road. The area is zoned as rural ranch, which permits mobile homes if a conditional use permit is approved.


City seeking construction manager to oversee
east side sewer line to PhoenixMart, other areas

(Posted June 29, 2014)


You'll find the full request for qualifications, including a map showing how sewer lines in that area tie into each other, at

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/files/2013/04/Complete.pdf


 Casa Grande has issued a request for qualifications for a construction manager at risk to oversee building of a 3.6-mile sewer line east of Interstate 10 that would initially serve the proposed PhoenixMart project but would be upsized to provide capacity for future residential and industrial/commercial growth in the area.

PhoenixMart needs a 21-inch sewer line to service its 500-plus acres east of the Promenade mall. Because the city wants to be able to serve future development on the east side, it will upsize the line to provide future capacity.

It's a matter of doing it all at once, rather than a few years from now have to excavate for a new, larger line.

The overall project, including any land acquisition costs, is projected to cost up to $10 million, the City Council was told during earlier briefings. Under the agreement, PhoenixMart is to pay $4.8 million in three installments as the project progresses. The city will fund the rest out of money already collected from development impact fees and construction sales tax.

The sewer rate increase recently approved by the City Council is not connected to PhoenixMart or the line upsizing, city officials have said. Money collected from that increase will go toward operating costs and bond payments for the city sewer treatment plant.

The deadline for answers to the request for qualifications is July 23.

The request says the construction manager at risk will "provide preconstruction services up to and including creation of a guaranteed maximum price for construction and then execute construction of the project."

The project is described as "intended to provide for the construction of approximately 21,200 linear feet (3.6 miles) of large-diameter gravity sewer pipeline. The pipeline is tentatively planned to be installed within rights-of-way and/or easements along one of the potential alignments (either Kortsen Road or Florence Boulevard east of I-10). These easements/rights-of-way are to be procured by the city prior to construction. 

"The project will involve jack and bore crossing through existing Arizona Department of Transportation right- of-way for Interstate 10 freeway, the remainder of the project is anticipated to be constructed using typical trenching operations. Several crossings of facilities owned and or operated by the Hohokam Irrigation & Drainage District may also be required. 

"All appurtenant and ancillary work and materials required for the construction of the proposed pipeline are intended to provided by the selected CMAR."

The request for qualifications says responsibilities of the construction manager include:

• Preliminary cost estimating to be used for determination of final line-sizing of the complete alignment.

• Provide input regarding means and methods which may reduce costs and improve constructability.

• Provide for construction phasing and scheduling that minimizes land acquisition costs

• Provide long-lead procurement studies and initiate procurement of long-lead items as

may be directed.

• Participate in permitting processes (with ADOT, the irrigation district, Kinder Morgan natural gas, etc.) 

• Input regarding material selection 

• Provide input regarding alternate solutions/methods which may reduce costs and

improve constructability.

During earlier briefings, the city said there are two possible routes for the line on the east side of I-10: east along Kortsen Road or jogging south and then east along Florence Boulevard.

"I believe Kortsen Road would be the preferred line at this particular time," Deputy City Manager Larry Rains told the City Council during a May briefing, "but there's still a fair amount of analysis that has to be done."


Unemployment rate up slightly throughout area

(Posted June 19, 2014)


Unemployment in May rose just slightly in Casa Grande and in other area cities, statistics posted Thursday by the Arizona Department of Administration show.

Casa Grande had a jobless rate of 6.9 percent during May, up from 6.7 during April. 

The statistics for Casa Grande showed 1,432 people out of work during May, up from 1,393 for April. 

Casa Grande had a 3.3 percent jobless rate for May 2007, the year before the economy crashed. 

Pinal County had a May rate of 6.9 percent jobless (9,606 without work), up from 6.5 (9,147) during April. 

In the past, statistics from the state included unincorporated areas and Indian communities.

The state has now posted this notice: "Estimates for unincorporated cities and towns have been discontinued." The site refers users to outdated federal census statistics.

Other cities' statistics are:

Coolidge

6.5 percent jobless rate for May (302 unemployed), up from 6.2 percent (288) during April. 

Eloy

10.7 rate for May (420 jobless), up from 10.2 (400) during April. 

Florence

8.7 rate for May (276 jobless), up from 8.4 during April (266). 

Maricopa city

6.4 rate for May (1,265 jobless), up from 6.1 during April (1,219).


Emergency Evergreen irrigation repairs approved;
the question remains as to who will pay the costs

(Posted June 18, 2014)


The staff report, with cost breakdowns, is HERE


The 1928 Evergreen deed restriction is HERE


The 1986 Evergreen ordinance is HERE


The request for cost quote is HERE


Addendum to the cost quote request is HERE



The City Council has passed emergency legislation to spend up to $60,000 to repair the irrigation system in the Evergreen Historic District, about a three week process.

The question, though, is who is going to pay for it -- the 25 to 27 users or city taxpayers as a whole?

(The staff report in one place says 27 users, in another place 25.)

When Evergreen was platted in 1928 north and east of City Hall, one of the deed restrictions said, "All lot owners shall be required to pay their pro rata share of pumping expenses for irrigation water used on said premises; and all lots shall be deemed to be of equal size in ascertaining the pro rata share."

In 1986, the city passed an ordinance making that official, setting out the assessments and how they would be paid.

"Assessments are designed to recover large costs to the district which occur on a irregular or unpredictable schedule," that ordinance says. "Examples of such costs are repair and replacement of the pump and vehicle used in providing the service. Assessments shall be divided equally among all users of the service."

However, at the moment there is no clear explanation of what that 1986 ordinance really means.

"Our intent is come back either at the next meeting (July 7) or the following meeting (July 21) and research the ordinance and what the intent was behind that ordinance and then also the various options (for paying)," City Manager Jim Thompson said.

Three financing proposals are being bandied about, according to the staff report for the repairs, approved during Monday night's council meeting:

"Option A – Similar to the repairs completed in 2002, the cost of repairs are shared equally among the 25 remaining flood irrigation customers/users.

"Option B – Half of the costs of repairs are split equally amongst the 25 remaining flood irrigation customers/users, and the remaining balance is funded by the City Council contingency fund (which has a balance of $250,000).

"Option C – 100 percent of the cost of repairs are funded by the council contingency fund."

Part of the study before the matter is brought back before the council, Thompson said, would be the feasibility of forming a taxing district for irrigation users, whether the repairs would be billed to users all at once or spread over time, and other district questions.

"Immediately, of course, is to get the well operational," Thompson said. "We're probably three weeks out before we can achieve that. We're in the heat of the summer and so it's imperative because of the size and the investment in the trees in this historic district that we get that up and running."

The irrigation system has been down since March. On April 1, Councilman Dick Powell asked that the repairs be hurried up, citing what he said were complaints he had received.

The staff report gives details of what's happened since March, but highlights by Community Services Director Bill Schwind at Monday's meeting include:

"We did some assessment through the month of March trying to figure out how extensive that damage was," Schwind said.

"We figured if we were going to fix the pump and motor, we might as well take a look at the well itself, as it had aged over time."

The council was told that a video camera was lowered into the 280-foot-deep well, showing damage to the casing.

"We did run into another item related to the repair situation and that is the age of the electrical component that runs the well," Schwind said. "It's not currently up to current code, so we had to address that as well."

We accumulated a fee of a little over $51,000 as far as the repair goes.

"There are still some unknowns there relative to how we want to maintain the accessibility and the service of that pump, and so in the budget request this evening we're asking for an amount not to exceed $60,000. That gives us a little bit of a contingency as the repairs go on."

The vote to immediately make available up to $60,000 was unanimous, with Powell recusing himself because he lives in the district.


Home foreclosure excess proceeds list posted

(Posted June 17, 2014)


Pinal County issued this press release today:                                            

 

Pinal County Treasurer Dodie Doolittle is pleased to announce that her office has a webpage dedicated to listing all excess proceeds from real estate foreclosure sales within the county. 

Excess proceeds have been a hot topic on television and radio ads since the downturn of the housing market beginning in 2007. The excess proceeds come from a sale of a house in foreclosure by a banking institution. If the amount of the sale exceeds what was owed on the house at the time of foreclosure, the former owner may be entitled to those funds. An effort to contact the property owner is difficult as people move out of the area and the U.S. Postal Service forwarding information expires. 

"We have been receiving hundreds of calls on this subject," Doolittle said. "There are companies that offer these lists for a fee to a client. But this is public information and people have the right to know without paying a fee to a third party."

The website is 

https://treasurer.pinalcountyaz.gov/ParcelInquiry/Main/ExcessProceeds

The page will give people links to the applicable statute, packets for filing for release of the funds and case searches. The "View Excess Proceeds Report" will generate a listing of all currently held funds in alphabetical order by last name.




MONDAY NIGHT UPDATE

The city budget and the $2.75-a-month increase in the residential sewer rate, outlined in the story below, were approved Monday night by the CIty Council, ending a meeting that began at 6:30 p.m. and ended at 10:15 p.m.

At the motion of Councilman Karl Montoya, however, the sewer rate increase would be for one year instead of the two-year cycle in the initial proposal, giving the council the opportunity to again study the situation during next year's budget process.

The rate increase is effective Aug. 1, showing up on September's billings.


Public hearing Monday night before City Council
votes on new Casa Grande budget, sewer rates

(Posted June 12, 2014)


You'll find a budget overview HERE


An plain English budget overview from a May 1 City Council briefing on proposals is HERE

(Note that the $137,564,500 listed for the budget was before the carryovers from this fiscal year's budget were added, bringing the final total to $170,744,900.)


You'll find budget statistics and other information HERE


You'll find the property tax rates chart HERE


You'll find the personnel costs, including benefits, HERE


The monthly sewer rate increase chart is HERE


The sewer rate staff report is HERE

(It includes mention of water services rates. Those are for a small city-owned water company, not Arizona Water Co., the private operation that serves Casa Grande.)



It will be a two-part action Monday night as the City Council votes on the final $170,744,900 Casa Grande budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

As part of the regular 7 p.m. meeting, the council will conduct a public hearing, allowing anyone in the community to comment about the budget or the proposed $2.75 a month residential sewer rate increase, also part of the budget.

(It should be noted that the sewer rate increase is to fund the sewage treatment plant and associated debt and other expenses. It has nothing to do with the extension of a sewer line to the proposed PhoenixMart project on the east side of Interstate 10.)

Following the meeting, the council will immediately meet again in special session to vote on the budget.

You'll find complete budget and sewer rate information at the links above, but main points of the budget are:

• No increase in the primary or secondary city property tax rates, remaining at 99.99 cents per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation on the primary rate and 63.08 on the secondary rate. Those rates are to be ratified during the July 7 City Council meeting.

• No decrease in levels of city services.

• A 1 percent pay raise for city employees.

"We did include a 1 percent employee pay increase," Finance Director Doug Sandstrom told the council during a June 2 briefing on the tentative budget. 

"As council's aware, on the proposed budget there was no increase for employees included in there. At council's recommendation we did relook at that and we have included a 1 percent pay increase. 

"We have yet to determine when and how that would be implemented, but we do have the funding in there for the pay increase."

• The General Fund reserve is funded.

"We have a fully funded General Fund reserve of $21.4 million," Sandstrom told the council. "That's the equivalent of six months expenditures for the adopted budget."


Other actions from Monday's City Council meet

In other action Monday night, the council:

• Passed an emergency measure to pay up to $60,000 to repair the pump and well for the Evergreen Irrigation District. Whether or not residents using the irrigation service will pay part of the cost has yet to be determined. Councilman Dick Powell, an Evergreen resident, recused himself from the vote. Repairs should take about three weeks, the council was told.

• Gave final approval of a letter of intent and authorization for a development agreement with Tractor Supply Co. for a major distribution center here. Councilman Powell recused himself from the vote.

• Tabled creating a City Court security fee and security fund and institute a court compliance recovery fee, paid by persons ignoring previous court orders or appearances. Council members said they wished more information about the proposals.

• Gave initial approval to adoption of updated city building and residential codes.

• Gave initial approval to a $438,400 contract for professional maintenance and service at the city golf course.

• Accepted the proposal from Mary Ann and David Yandell of the CookEJar to operate food and beverage services at the newly renovated main library.

• Gave initial approval to a $400,000 contract for manholes rehabilitation.


Dental office setback, Acacia Landing monument
signs variances approved by Board of Adjustment 

JUNE 10 UPDATE:

Both requests were approved during Thursday night's Board of Adjustment meeting. The Planning and Zoning Commission will also hear aspects of the requests.


(Posted June 6, 2014)


You'll find the agenda and full staff reports for both cases at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/boa/


A request for a variance on how far back from Florence Boulevard a new dental building needs to be, along with a request to waive regulations on the number of monument entrance signs Acacia Landing can have are on the agenda when the Board of Adjustment meets Tuesday.

The meeting, open to the public, begins at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.

In the first case, Casa Grande Family Dentistry is requesting a variance for a new 3,100-square-foot building building at 1569 E. Florence Boulevard to be set back 10 feet from the street rather than the 35 feet city regulations require.

"Several issues related to the property have been a hindrance to the development of the site," the staff report says, including:

• The property has an irregular shaped lot. 

• The lot has substandard lot width. 

• The Fire Department needs an unobstructed 20-foot circulation drive through the property.

"Staff has determined that the substandard lot width is the result of the final plat that was approved by the city in a lot reconfiguration that occurred in 1992. The unusual lot configuration is a result of a previous lot split from previous owners of the property.

"Without the variance, the dental office building would have to change its current design to a smaller floor plan or increase the building to a two-story building."

The second case regards the monument signs. City regulations now allow only one non-illuminated sign per parcel, including subdivisions such as Acacia Landing that were not platted as a planned area developments with different requirements.

The monument sign cannot be more than two square feet. The request is for three monument signs of 12 square feet each, located at Colorado and 11th streets, McMurray Boulevard and Pottebaum Avenue and Pottebaum and Ninth Street.

"The variance is being requested because the Acacia Landing Homeowners Association has stated that they are unable to enhance their identity as other communities in the Casa Grande," the staff report says.


Tractor Supply Co. distribution center would again
boost CG, economic development director says

(Posted June 9, 2014)


Scroll down page for earlier story.


So, what would a huge, $70-million distribution center for Tractor Supply Co. do for Casa Grande other than provide 260-plus jobs.

Answering that question from Councilman Ralph Varela before the City Council gave initial approval Monday to authorizing the city manager to finalize a development agreement with the company, Economic Development Director Richard Wilkie said, "One of our key industries is distribution centers and to have yet another Fortune 500 company -- Wal-Mart and now Tractor Supply Co. -- coming into the community it also puts us on the map yet again.

"What this does is when you have two Fortune 500 companies, distribution centers, that are targeting their distribution for the area of the Southwest United States, California, Arizona, Nevada, even Utah, New Mexico, this adds one more reason why people should be considering Casa Grande when they're looking to establish their West Coast distribution centers."

In the past, Wilkie said, companies have looked at the West Valley area around Phoenix.

"When we have another company that locates here, they may continue to consider the West Valley, but they're going to look down here, too," he continued. 

"And when they see that we have the I-8, the 10, the double main line rail line by Union Pacific which Phoenix doesn't have, they have trunk lines that's an additional benefit that our community has, and the affordable land, you have shovel-ready sites, we have infrastructure that, through the foresight of the City Council, city management in establishing and developing our wastewater treatment system, it's just another positive reason, really good reason for people to come and take a look at us and ultimately come to Casa Grande."

Tractor Supply Co. has said it is in the process of buying 100 acres at the southeast corner of Burris and Peters roads for a distribution center to serve present and future retail stores in the Southwest.

It said it has recently opened its 14th Arizona store in Marana.

Tractor Supply bills itself as the largest retail farm and ranch store chain in the United States.

"At Dec. 28, 2013," the tag at the bottom of its press releases says, "Tractor Supply Co. operated 1,276 stores in 48 states. The company's stores are focused on supplying the lifestyle needs of recreational farmers and ranchers. The company also serves the maintenance needs of those who enjoy the rural lifestyle, as well as tradesmen and small businesses. Stores are located in towns outlying major metropolitan markets and in rural communities.  

"The company offers the following comprehensive selection of merchandise: (1) equine, pet and small animal products, including items necessary for their health, care, growth and containment; (2) hardware, truck, towing and tool products; (3) seasonal products, including lawn and garden items, power equipment, gifts and toys; (4) work/recreational clothing and footwear; and (5) maintenance products for agricultural and rural use."


City Council to consider agreement, economic
incentives for major distribution center in CG

JUNE 9 UPDATE:

Initial approval to action on a development agreement was given today by the City Council.


(Posted June 5, 2014)


You'll find the full agenda at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/

Clicking on an agenda item brings up staff reports and other documents when available.


Further details on the Tractor Supply proposal are HERE.


The ordinance is HERE.


The types of incentives offered by the city are found at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/econdev/business-information/incentives/


An explanation of foreign trade zones is at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_trade_zones_of_the_United_States.


The Casa Grande City Council meets in special session Monday to clean up some outstanding items and to consider incentives that would be offered to Tractor Supply Co., which has said it is considering building a $70-million distribution center in the city that would bring 161 jobs at the start and 267 at buildout.

The meeting, open to the public, begins at 4:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.

During its May 19 meeting, the council approved a resolution supporting Tractor Supply's bid to have the operation in a free trade zone, which offers tax and other incentives.

Monday's meeting, according to the staff report, would be for initial approval for City Manager Jim Thompson to negotiate a development agreement with Tractor Supply, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Brentwood, Tenn., that operates more than 1,300 retail stores in 48 states.

The staff report adds that "TSC's business model focuses on supplying the lifestyle needs of recreational farmers and ranchers, as well as tradesmen and other small businesses.

The 600,000-square-feet distribution center at Burris and Peters roads would serve retail stores in California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah, bringing in $8,460,430 yearly in wages to Casa Grande at buildout, the report says. The payroll for the first year of operation would be $5,265,878.

Points that would be included in the letter of intent include:

• Offering 161 full time jobs at the beginning with an hourly wage for non-exempt employees of at least 75 percent higher than the federal minimum wage (now $7.25 per hour, but rising to $10.10 hourly in January) and would pay at least 25 percent of the hourly wage  in benefits. At buildout, the agreement says, there would be 238 jobs.

• Casa Grande would give TSC with a $250,000 credit toward city fees and up to $669,000 in construction sales tax funds generated by TSC, which would be applied toward building permit and development impact fees. 

"The total incentive to Tractor Supply would not exceed $919,000," the staff report says.

• The city will be asked to consider an intergovernmental agreement with the Phoenix Trade Zone (which handles free trade zones in this area) once the Tractor Supply application has been accepted by that agency.


JUNE 9 UPDATE:

The following items were also unanimously approved:


Other items on the agenda, all under the consent agenda to be passed on one vote without discussion unless a council member or person in the audience asks for discussion, are final approvals for renewing the contract of the golf director at Dave White Municipal Golf Course, design services for a traffic signal at Jimmie Kerr Boulevard and Sunland Gin Road, an automatic trapping machine for the city landfill, contracting with Paymentus Corp. for electronic processing and payment of city billings, an agreement with Verizon/Gila River Cellular for small cell locations in the city and expanding the city's solar energy program to Fire Station 4 and the Public Safety Facility.


Automatic tarping machine will save city money
in meeting state landfill covering requirements

(Posted June 8, 2014)


You'll find the staff report HERE


You'll find the 2013 topsoil purchase staff report HERE



There are many ways for a city to save the taxpayers' money, some of them not so obvious.

Take the city landfill on Chuichu Road near Interstate 10 for example.

To comply with the requirements of the city's state permit to operate, when crews have finished dumping and spreading each day they must cover the exposed waste with at least six inches of topsoil.

As Councilman Dick Powell brought out during last Monday's City Council meeting during discussion of buying a 40-feet-wide automatic tarping machine for the nightly cover, that's 182 feet a year added to the landfill, which is being built upward.

And the dirt is expensive.

In April of 2013, the council approved a three-year contract to pay an initial $181,675 to buy 43,000 tons -- yes, tons -- of soil for cover. That's the amount needed each year.

That alone is expensive.

And as Public Works Director Kevin Louis pointed out, the requirement to add six inches of soil a day "is not very cost effective. This tarping machine provides us the opportunity to finish that day's work and cover it with that alternative cover (the tarp) and then uncover at the start of the next day and then continue our work."

Powell said asked if the dirt being placed sifts down into the rubble in the landfill, meaning more has to be added to reach the six-inch requirement.

"In the past, it did," Louis responded. "However, you may recall that we have the blending process where we're taking our solids from wastewater treatment plant, which we're permitted to use as an alternative cover as long as we blend that three-to-one with our topsoil material. We're finding a lot less goes through the top of the stuff, so we are saving in that respect as long as we can keep those air voids to a minimum and not have to put layer after layer after layer of dirt on there. We want  to minimize that as much as possible while still staying within our permit requirements. 

"It's going to save us money and add years to the life of the landfill."


Verizon to bring 4G cell service to Casa Grande

(Posted June 4, 2014)


Verizon's small cell explanation, showing devices attached to poles, is HERE



Verizon Wireless will begin placing what are known as "small cell" devices throughout Casa Grande to reach areas towers have problems covering, bringing the company's 4G cell service to the city.

The City Council gave initial approval Monday night to a longterm agreement with Verizon/Gila River Cellular.

City Management Analyst Steven Turner said that within two to three years there should be 20 to 30 of the short-range booster devices around the city, with about 100 expected by the end of the 25-year agreement. He said the Planning and Development Department is now processing applications for eight sites.

"Small cells are small in size and provide concentrated 4G service within a small radius," Turner's staff report said. "Due to the small concentrated footprint, multiple locations are needed. Verizon Wireless desires to partner with the city for small cell deployment in the right-of-way. City light standards and traffic lights can be ideal locations."

Answering a question from Councilwoman Mary Kortsen, City Attorney Brett Wallace said the master lease agreement does not allow Verizon to place the devices wherever it wants.

"It still requires us to individually look at where they want to put it and basically come to terms on that," he said. "It's not a they can go wherever want to. They still have to ask for our permission, they'll still have to go through staff analysis as well as permit requirements."

The same type of master lease agreement would be required of other cell phone companies wanting to install small cell equipment, Wallace said.

Councilman Dick Powell asked if the devices will be attached to existing poles or would 100 new poles spring up.

"Actually, they will not go on the existing poles," Planning and Development Director Paul Tice replied. "Those existing poles are not designed to hold additional weight, so any location we might approve, they will tear down the existing one, build a slightly larger one that can be used to support their equipment as well as the other infrastructure that needs to go it, the street light or traffic signal."

According to Turner's staff report, Verizon would pay the city $700 for each site, with a 3 percent annual increase, and would pay all electricity costs.


Sewer rate increases
Alternative proposal cuts hike to $2.75 monthly;
you can have your say at June 16 public hearing

JUNE 10 UPDATE

The city announced today that the $2.75 rate will be the one voted on when the public hearing is held June 16.


(Posted June 3, 2014)


The $2.75 monthly increase data chart is HERE


The $5 monthly increase data chart is HERE


Chart HERE shows financial problems from no increase


A comparison with area cities is HERE


An alternative to raising Casa Grande's sewer rate by five dollars monthly for two years, followed by lesser increases through 2019, will be before the City Council during the June 16 meeting.

That plan would call for a $2.75 monthly increase through 2019.

Finance Director Doug Sandstrom told the council during Monday night's meeting that the second proposal came after conversations with some residents and City Council members.

In the long run, it's pretty much the same as far as what residents will have paid over those years. Sandstrom said that under the $5 plan it would be an increase of $14 a year. Under the $2.75 increase proposal it would be $13.75 yearly.

It would be basically making the impact less during the first two years of the $5 plan. The $5 increase plan would drop to $2 the third year and $1 each of the following two years. The $2.75 plan would be the same each month through 2019.

You'll have your chance to voice your opinion on which plan the council should choose. A public hearing will precede the June 16 vote.


The whole issue is an involved one involving rising operational costs at the sewage treatment plant and the continuing obligation of paying off the loan from the Arizona Water Infrastructure Financing Authority for the expansion of the plant for present and future needs, doubling the capacity from six million gallons a day to 12 million.

The charts accompanying Sandstrom presentation show that during the fiscal year beginning July 1 the city expects to pay $5,330,400 toward that loan. It was announced in 2008 that the loan the city was applying for would be $65 million. The city said the current balance on the loan is $47,589,262, with a full maturity date of 2019.


Enterprise fund 

The wastewater fund is one of what are known as enterprise funds, meaning that they must pay for themselves through the rates charged.

"All of those rates that are paid through the wastewater funds go right into that fund," Sandstrom said. "They don't go anywhere else. They can't be used for anything outside of the provision of wastewater services. And it's all collected and dedicated with those individual funds."


Five-year outlook

Both the original wastewater increase proposal and the alternative lower one project out for five years, beginning in the 2015 city fiscal year beginning July 1.

"We wanted to take a five-year look at it," Sandstrom said, "because we want to make sure that there's no jumps up and down in either the revenue or the expenditure side, to make sure we've taken that longterm view and give some consistency built into the rates, both from a business perspective as well as from the users, so they know what to expect on an ongoing basis."


Customers

Sandstrom said 95 percent of the city's wastewater customers are residential, but that commercial accounts bring in 30 percent of the money. "So commercial is definitely paying its fair share," he added.

When the $5 monthly increase was proposed, Sandstrom said, he received queries as to why the base rate on commercial was being increased only by $1 while residents faced a $5 increase.

"I told them about the consumption portion is where we get the money there and that there is no subsidy of commercial by the residential," he said. "It actually is the other way around. 

"Any changes in our customer base on the commercial side has a definite impact on our longterm projects."


The costs

The chart provided by Sandstrom (linked above) show that during the fiscal year beginning July 1 it will cost an estimated $902,300 for personnel, $2,931,200 for supplies and contact work, plus the $5,330,400 for debt payment.


The impact of no increase

Sandstrom said that if no sewer rate increase were made, during the 2015 fiscal year the fund would remain in the black. "We would start the year with $5.9 million in the bank. On June 30 of 2015 we'd have $1.2 million. So we'd be spending down that fund balance in order to maintain the (present) rate.

"By this time next fiscal year 2016 we'd be $1.8 million in the hole and basically every year we would be subsidizing operations $3.5 million if we were to do nothing to our rates.

(Further details are in the chart linked above.)


The debt obligation

"The area that's really driving the rate increases that we're talking about today is debt service," Sandstrom said. "We have debt for the expansion of the wastewater treatment, and we need to have the wastewater rates cover that debt.

"The intent was to have development pay for that as different areas went forward, but development, as everybody knows, has not quite came back to the extent that we had wanted it to.

"When we originally went out and did the debt service (the loan) on the wastewater treatment plant we anticipated $2.5 million (yearly) coming from development impact fees.

"Our assumptions now keep our money from development impact fees at a little bit less than what we're seeing today, about $155,000 a year.

"To show you what that would mean, currently we're bringing in about $155,000. Growth around here would have to increase by a factor of about 16 times the amount of growth that you're seeing today to bring in development impact fees of about $2.4 million.

"Things would have to change dramatically for growth and development fees to be the driver of really pulling down the rates. Something really has to change in order for this development impact fee to make up that difference.

"A typical new single-family home pays about $4,000 in wastewater impact fees. The Commonwealth Dairy that came in paid $35,000 in development impact fees directly to this. "Every one of the large commercial or industrial users pays a lot more money toward the collection system and the treatment system than a residential home would. When the development happens on the economic side, we'll get more money in from development impact fees that goes right to debt that ends up helping to decrease or lower the increase in rates."

To put it in another perspective, Mayor Bob Jackson said, if $155,000 is now coming in from impact fees and would have to grow 16 times, "if you do the mental arithmetic, if we're doing 125 units a year now 16 times would be 1,800 units or so. When you add the commercial/industrial component into that, you realize that one industry is equivalent to seven or eight homes."

Another problem with development impact fees income, Sandstrom said, is "the last couple of years we've seen changes at the state level on our impact fees. We have not been able to increase our impact fees under the state law. We were then limited in what we could collect impact fees for. Most of the debt was issued prior to those changes, so that's hampering our ability to go out and make up any difference on the impact fees side by adjusting those."

The tightening of impact fee rules was passed by the Arizona Legislature after a heavy lobbying effort by developers.

It was also noted that under the terms of the loan, the Water Infrastructure Financing Authority requires the city to keep at least one year's work of debt payment in a reserve account that can't be used for anything else.


The alternative increase plan

"As a result of some of the discussion we've had with council and as well as with some residents, we went through and reevaluated a couple different things and we came up with another model where rather than that larger $5 increase the first couple of years we spread it out more over the five-year period at $2.75," Sandstrom said. 

"It's still over a five-year period, but instead of raising rates $14 a year, it raises rates $13.75."

That would not put the sewage treatment fund in the red, Sandstrom said, "but the fund balances that we have they drop significantly from where we are currently at the $5.8 million, getting all the way down in FY18 at about $1.8 million.

"At the point it starts going back up because that's where revenue will actually start to cover the expenditures and we won't be spending down our fund balance in order to maintain the rates as is."

Another effect of the lower monthly increase, Sandstrom said, would be taking $1 million out of the capital projects fund, dropping it to $1.9 million.

"We have a $1-million recharge project in there that will only move forward if we identify another revenue source for it outside of user fees, something to do with the reuse of our effluent water, something along those lines that's not a direct result of our users," he said. "So that capital project would only happen that way."

The proposed recharge project would build settling ponds and injection systems to return treated wastewater to the ground instead of letting it run down the Santa Cruz Wash. There would be water credits accumulated from the state which could be sold the developers needing to prove a water supply.


Questions from the council

Councilwoman Mary Kortsen said she had concerns about the companion increase on multifamily dwellings (shown in charts linked above, both for the original proposal and the revised one).

The impact on multifamily residents, she said, would be on "the people that are more vulnerable to the economy and don't have as much to spend. I just kind of wanted to look at that again, because I think there's a tendency for people to say, oh, well, it's residential, residential. Owners pass that on to tenants, so I just kind of wanted to take a closer look at that for that reason."

Sandstrom said the sewer service rate on multifamily units is about 62 percent of that charged for single-family residences "and I just kept that factor constant all the way through. So whatever we do on the residential side, multifamily adjusts accordingly on that 62 percent rate."

Councilman Ralph Varela said, "I definitely think the $2.75 is a lot easier for individuals who are less income than the $5. I think the council has done that in the previous where it's as not front-loaded and allows for easier transition."

Councilman Dick Powell said he would like to explore reconfiguring the sewage treatment plant debt, perhaps an earlier payoff

"The debt is basically the prime mover of the need to increase (monthly rates)," he said, "and I think there would be a chance to look at that and reconfigure some debts, even if we had to dip a little bit into our contingency fund that we have."


Negotiations have begun

City Manager Jim Thompson responded that, "We've started that process with WIFA, the Water Infrastructure Financing Authority, where our debt's with, which is a very low cost loan that we currently have.

"But as loans are structured over 20 or 25 years, in our case 20 years, the upfront is usually a little less and starts increasing."

(Those increases are shown in the charts linked above)

The city is looking at renegotiating the loan, Thompson said, but "we're finding that interest rates have increased a little bit, so what is the true costs savings, what is the impact on fees? Is it really going to be worth it to extend out the additional three, three and a half years on the note. Does that add value in the long run? 

"We're doing that analysis now. We'll have that before the 16th to have that discussion."

Paying a larger amount toward the loan is also problematical, Thompson said. 

If that were to be taken from the sewage treatment fund without even the $2.75 increase it would wipe out that fund. If it were paid from the General Fund, that amount would in turn be owed back to that fund.

"On the 16th we can tell you what those options might be on the financing. It will take some time to refinance that debt, it won't be immediate, but we can take that into consideration when we take a look at adjusting the rates," Thompson said.

Councilman Karl Montoya said, "I just want to thank you for the $2.75 a month (increase proposal), easier and a little bit softer than the $5, I appreciate that.

But, Montoya added, residents should not overlook what the expansion of the treatment plant has brought to the city.

"We brought in two industries, probably wouldn't have come," he said. "And I think looking at the other cities that are below us, they're not able to bring in or expand at the rate we are, because they don't have that. Coolidge, for instance, I don't they can bring in industry like we can, because they don't have the expansion power that we have.

"I think there's built-in value. I know it's tough to pay for it now, but I think it pays off in the longer run."


Rates in area cities

(The comparison chart is linked above)

Thompson said the city didn't survey other cities about the same size as Casa Grande, but rates in Lake Havasu City and Sierra Vista are about the same as neighboring city of Maricopa.

"Maricopa had to do quite a bit of improvement to theirs and that's why you see the wastewater rate at $62.91," Thompson said. "It's not an inexpensive venture. It's very expensive.

"Coolidge, in particular, (at $15.23 a month) is a totally different type of operation. It's just large lagoons and it doesn't doesn't treat water to the level that we treat it to, you cannot apply it to the land. There's a whole bunch of limitations to what they have (including tightening EPA standards for the future). So eventually Coolidge's rate will probably exceed our rate substantially because they're going to have to build not when the economy's conducive like we did, but probably when it's not as conducive because they're going to be required to.

"If you look at what Florence and Maricopa have, we have the same type of plant that they have, and we're the cheapest of the three that have that same highest quality, the A-plus water plants that we have."

Maricopa, at $62.91 for sewage, is handled by the private Global Water company.

"I think that's one advantage that we have in doing our own," Powell said. "I know that residents have gone to the Corporation Commission and there's a lot of unhappiness with their situation in Maricopa."

Jackson also pointed out that because Maricopa is predominately residential, with little commercial or industry, "the preponderance of their cost sits on the residential side."


Monday night's actions by CG City Council

(Posted June 2, 2014)


You'll find the complete agenda at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/

Clicking on an agenda item brings up staff reports and other available documents.


City Council actions Monday night include:

• Approved the tentative $170,744,900 city budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Final adoption is scheduled after a public hearing during the June 16 council meeting.

(The entire budget schedule, with links to documents, is HERE)

• Because of uncertainties over how the resolution and changes should be worded, again delayed approval of updated fire and building codes, including a revision in requirements for a fire sprinkler system that exempts unenclosed decks, patios, and similar building areas, as well as attached garages, in determining the 5,000 square foot residential area.

• Approved agreements for expanding the city's program of installing solar units on its buildings.

• Renewed the contract of Robert Bauer as director of golf at the city course at a salary of $75,000 a year.

• Gave initial approval to a $58,848 contract to design a traffic signal for Jimmie Kerr Boulevard and Sunland Gin Road, rated as top priority among intersections.

• Gave initial approval to a contract with Verizon for that company to provide small-area 4G cell service in Casa Grande.

• Approved applying for a $21,288 grant for overtime for the Police Department's community policing activities.

• Awarded the city's legal advertising contract to Casa Grande Valley Newspapers, the only bidder.

• Reappointed Nicole Perez and Valyrie Wright to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

• Chose Councilwoman Mary Kortsen to be mayor pro tem, replacing Lisa Fitzgibbons. The position rotates each year among council members.

Proposal would save money for city, widen
methods for paying your utility, other bills

(Posted May 30, 2014)


UPDATE: Initial approval was given during the City Council's meeting Monday night, June 2)


You'll find the agreement specifications HERE


Persons who receive Casa Grande utility or other billings will see their payment methods widened if a proposal before the City Council is approved Monday night.

A North Carolina financial institution known as Paymentus would handle electronic payments, processing and online billings. That operation is expected to save the city about $12,000 yearly, with further savings as the system expands.

"Currently, the city utilizes an online provider to allow customers to pay their utility bills," the staff report accompanying the agenda item says. "Customers are able to log into their account and view their current balance and make a payment, but very little else. 

"With the solution being provided by Paymentus a customer will be able to log into their account, view copies of their current and past two months utility bill, link accounts, store payment information, view up to 36 months of payment history and sign up for re-occurring billing.

"The service level that our customers will experience will increase dramatically and the overall cost to the city will decrease by approximately $1,000 per month depending upon the volume of transactions utilizing credit/debit or electronic checks."

The staff report says using Paymentus services offers advantages to both the customer and the city, including:

• E-billing: Online customers will be able to access their bill online. The electronic bill will look exactly like the paper bills which are now mailed. Customers will be able to opt in or out of receiving a hard copy of their bills.

• Various payment options: IVR (automated phone), text messaging, web, kiosk, mobile app, customer service representative assisted or in-person. Payment types accepted will be credit, debit and check under all available options. 

• Customer self-service: View account usage, bill history, make one-time payments, schedule reoccurring payments and receive notifications from the city.

• Communication management: Ability to notify customers of critical business updates via SMS text, IVR or email. IVR system will allow for both English and Spanish. 

• Business intelligence: Real-time snapshots of revenue received, daily deposits and reconciliations, real-time data management and account updates.

Regular customers such as utility users will not see a convenience fee tacked on when the service begins.

"In an effort to continue to provide optimal customer service it is our intent to continue to pay all processing fees for credit card transactions with the exception of those that take place in the Development Center (such as for permits or other documents)," the staff report says. 

"Credit card usage in the Development Center is mainly larger corporate transactions as opposed to the smaller transactions which occur with the utilities and the courts. Unlike utilities and the court, the Development Center has the ability to withhold services if payment is not made and the majority of their customers are utilizing credit cards as a business choice as opposed to a fiscal necessity. Customers choosing to utilize credit or debit cards with the Development Center will absorb a 2.7 percent transaction fee charged by the credit card processor."

In addition, the staff report says, "Included in the proposal pricing is the ability to establish online payments for many court activities. As implementation begins we will be working with the City Court to establish this service as practical. Implementation of online and/or IVR payment processing of many court related costs could have a very beneficial effect on the court. Possibilities also exist for an interconnection to our recreation software systems which will further integrate our payment processing.

"It is anticipated that switching to Paymentus will save the city approximately $12,000 annually in fees associated with court and utility payments. Additional savings will be realized as the Development Center will be set up to charge a convenience fee to those choosing to utilize credit cards when paying for permits."


Financial assurances met, City Council OKs
PhoenixMart sewer line extension agreement

(Posted May 22, 2014)


The updated draft agreement is HERE


The financial guarantees section is HERE


The original staff report is HERE


Go to SPECIAL, in the header above, for earlier stories outlining the project requests.


A $10-million sewer line agreement with AZ Sourcing, the parent of the proposed PhoenixMart project, has been approved after the developers agreed to financial guarantees other than a deed to the land.

PhoenixMart needs a 21-inch sewer line to service its 500-plus acres east of the Promenade mall. Because the city wants to be able to serve future development on the east side, it will upsize the line to provide future capacity.

It's a matter of doing it all at once, rather than a few years from now have to excavate for a new, larger line.

Under the agreement, PhoenixMart is to pay $4.8 million in three installments as the project progresses. The city will fund the rest out of money already collected from development impact fees and construction sales tax.

The proposed sewer rate increase in the city is not connected to PhoenixMart or the line upsizing, city officials have said. Money collected from that increase will go toward operating costs and bond payments for the city sewer treatment plant.

Before the City Council unanimously approved the agreement Monday night, Deputy City Manager Larry Rains gave a brief overview of the situation, followed by comments from City Attorney Brett Wallace about the financial guarantees being monetary, not land.

The upsizing of the line would be needed, Rains said, for several reasons.

"As we reviewed this from the city's perspective we understand that there's some potential synergies that likely will happen as a result of the PhoenixMart phase one and some of the other development that will imminent under phase two and two-b of this particular development.

"We also have had a fair amount of inquiry over the years regarding the services necessary to open development to the east side. And, since this discussion has commenced with AZ Sourcing we have had other developers that have made inquiry as having interest in potentially siting the line to the east side.

"The thought as we started down this process with AZ Sourcing was that the city would like to upsize this line regardless of what size of line they ultimately ended up building, so this entire project has been somewhat developed based on that particular strategy."

During earlier briefings, the city said there are two possible routes for the line: east along Kortsen Road or jogging south and then east along Florence Boulevard.

"I believe Kortsen Road would be the preferred line at this particular time," Rains said Monday night, "but there's still a fair amount of analysis that has to be done."

The city has estimated that the entire project could be done for $10 million.

"That project will not only include the construction cost associated with the line sizing but it will also include the permitting that takes place, the right of way acquisition, if any, that is required. All what we consider to be total project costs for the project, establishing that $10-million budget.

"Obviously, $4.8 million of that will be payable by AZ Sourcing, the other $5.2 million will be payable through funding sourcing that the city has actually accumulated over the years, from payments through the development community.

"There's actually two of those. We have our development impact fees that we've collected on any new development that has taken place since those were imposed and a portion of that,  it's $2.5 million I believe, would be paid by development impact fees from the collection line component.

"The second component, again which is driven by sources of development, is our construction sales tax increment that we began collecting in 2006 that was specific for infrastructure projects, so the remaining portion of that would be financed through our construction sales tax fund.


No sewer rate funds involved

Rains said the city has received questions of whether the proposed increase in sewer rates will be diverted to the PhoenixMart/upsizing project.

"And the answer is no," Rains said. "We are looking to finance this, payable by cash, through development type revenue streams. The sewer rate component increase is needed for our sewer operations, the actual operations within that fund.

"There's also been a question of whether or not we would be utilizing any of our General Fund reserves, or fund balance. The answer is no. Again, development related funding sources will be utilized for the capital side of the project."

The $4.8 million from AZ Sourcing/PhoenixMart would be in three installments, the first when the city signs a construction contract.

"The second payment would come as phase two within their development begins and/or the sooner of five years, whichever came first," Rains said. "The third and final payment of $1.6 million would transpire at the time that a permit was pulled in phase two-b and/or at a 10-year marker.

"And so it's important to note that if no development happens in either phase two or two-b in five- and 10-year increments those payments would be due to the city.

"We have backed that in the development agreement with a financial security, which would be payable or actually posted at the time that the $1.6 million initial payment was made. In essence, we have a $3.2-million bond, financial assurance that is posted at the time we hired a contractor."


Financial assurances

Questions arose from the City Council during the initial discussion of the sewer line agreement about AZ Sourcing wanting to use a land deed as security rather than post monetary assurances.

"Specifically, AZ Sourcing had requested that the city consider accepting a deed trust on property," City Attorney Wallace told the council Monday night. "That is obviously something that city has generally not done, for a number of reasons.

"We were able to share those myriad reasons with AZ Sourcing and fortunately they have now agreed to withdraw their request to use a deed of trust. They have agreed to post a surety bond, irrevocable letter of credit, cash deposit or cash equivalent as security.

"There's also language in the agreement that would allow them to do other similar means, but our intent in doing that is that they be similar to those cash items. They need to be a substantial equivalent of the cash-based securities.

"The agreement I think made clear that land would not be acceptable as security for that $3.2 million that'll need to be secured from the time of that first payment."

 

Updating of city codes again delayed pending
revisions about open patios, enclosed garages

(Posted May 21, 2014)


Explanatory memo is HERE


The proposed 2012 code is HERE



As the City Council began considering proposed changes to city building and fire codes, Councilman Matt Herman said he had been approached by a builder who had questions about the section that said new houses of more than 5,000 square feet of livable space would need to have a fire sprinkler system.

What was being questioned, Herman said, was that garages and patios were to be included in calculating that space.

The council tabled the matter until this week's meeting to allow Planning and Development Director Paul Tice to research the issue and report back.

"The first thing is that staff confirmed that the requirements of sprinkler systems in single-family homes exceeding 5,000 square feet has, in fact, been in place in Casa Grande since 1988," Tice said in his report Monday night. "It has been continued in various editions of the code we have adopted since then. And it's also proposed in the 2012 fire code and building code and residential code being considered."

(The 2012 proposal is the latest offered by the International Building Code Council. Those model codes, issued about every three years, are not mandatory, allowing cities to reject them, adopt them as a whole or amend them to meet city needs.)

Tice said a provision in the 2012 version would exempt single-family homes that were originally less than 5,000 square feet but went over that limit because of an addition to the building. Those homes, he said, would be grandfathered and not require sprinklers.

"The other thing that we verified," Tice continued, "was that under the current code, the definition of building area is area that is within closed walls. Open patios, open decks that are maybe under roof but don't have walls would be exempt from being included in the 5,000 square foot calculation.

"As a side note, we did determine that in the 2012 proposal it did modify the definition of building area that does include open decks that might have living area or structure above them or share the roofline with the structure. So, the 2012 code would include decks and porches, patios that share a roof with the main structure in the 5,000 square feet. Unless modified, that would remain in the 2012."

And that was the point of Herman's initial concerns. He feels that garages and patios should not be counted in determining livable space.

"I'd like to see some sort of wording that excludes the patios that are unenclosed patio areas and attached garages, which would make most of our homes exempt from this that are under construction," he said Monday night.

"But, the attached garages should contain smoke detectors. It is a safety issue, as the Fire Department told me, so I appreciate that. So that's why I think the smoke detectors will be really have to be in the garage in these wider homes because a lot of the fires start way, and so that would warn people inside the house."

In recapping the issue, Tice said, "Under the current code that we're operating under, when you calculating the 5,000 square feet it's still the building area. And the building area is defined by the area that's enclosed by walls, which means patios that don't have walls are not included in the building area. So they're exempt today. Open patios, open decks, even though they're under the roof of the building are exempt.

"In the 2012 proposal, it changes the definition of building area to say that decks and patio, even though they may not be enclosed by walls, if they have living area over the top, structural area over the top, or share the roofline with the main structure that they are to be included in the building area.

"So what I heard you say was that in addition to garage not being included in the 5,000 square feet, unenclosed patios and unenclosed decks would also be excluded, even though they share the same roof as the structure."

Correct, Herman replied.

A revised proposal will be before the council during its June 2 meeting.


Foreign trade zone designation would bring
250 to 300 jobs, $7.5-million payroll to city



(Posted May 20, 2014)




An explanation of foreign trade zones is at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_trade_zones_of_the_United_States


A list of foreign trade zones in Arizona is HERE


The Casa Grande staff report is HERE



Casa Grande is supporting a request by Tractor Supply Co. for a foreign trade zone on the west side of the city that the company says would bring a $7.5 million annual payroll for 250 to 300 full-time jobs operating out of a $70-million facility.

The company is in the process of buying 100 acres at the southeast corner of Burris and Peters roads for a distribution center to serve present and future retail stores in the Southwest.

It said it has recently opened its 14th Arizona store in Marana.

Tractor Supply bills itself as the largest retail farm and ranch store chain in the United States.

"At Dec. 28, 2013," the tag at the bottom of its press releases says, "Tractor Supply Co. operated 1,276 stores in 48 states. The company's stores are focused on supplying the lifestyle needs of recreational farmers and ranchers. The company also serves the maintenance needs of those who enjoy the rural lifestyle, as well as tradesmen and small businesses. Stores are located in towns outlying major metropolitan markets and in rural communities.  

"The company offers the following comprehensive selection of merchandise: (1) equine, pet and small animal products, including items necessary for their health, care, growth and containment; (2) hardware, truck, towing and tool products; (3) seasonal products, including lawn and garden items, power equipment, gifts and toys; (4) work/recreational clothing and footwear; and (5) maintenance products for agricultural and rural use."

A foreign trade zone designation, in brief, allows tax breaks by local taxing agencies for 20 years and provides certain reductions when importing materials from other countries.

In Casa Grande's case, the tradeoff for the 250 to 300 jobs and $7.5-million payroll would be a reduction of about $109,000 yearly on the city's primary property tax rate.

However, Tractor Supply is also requesting other economic development incentives from the city, but those have not been made public. They were to be discussed during a closed executive session Monday night. Such closed sessions are allowed when discussing legal and personnel issues.

"Ultimately, what the benefit to Tractor Supply in Casa Grande would be is that they would be able to reduce their property tax ratio from 19 percent to 5 percent for a 20-year period," Deputy City Manager Larry Rains told the council before its unanimous approval of a resolution supporting the trade zone proposal.

"We have attempted to quantify that from staff's perspective just to get a better understanding.

"When you take their $71 million capital investment and take those items that would be taxable under our primary property tax scenario and reclassifying the ratio from 19 percent to 5 percent over the next 20 years, you could anticipate that Tractor Supply would save roughly $109,000 annually under our current property tax rate.

"We do anticipate that the 5 percent would generate roughly $40,000 per year in annual primary property taxes, should they elect to site their distribution center here in Casa Grande."

Tractor Supply needs resolutions of support from each taxing agency in the area, the council was told.

"The school districts, the county and the other taxing agencies have completed their review and are supporting the application," Rains said.

As Rains explained it, "A foreign trade zone is one of the few tools  that the state of Arizona still allows for development. On rare occasions, the city does entertain requests and currently we have one entity operating in a foreign trade zone, that being Abbott Labs.

"A foreign trade zone (covers companies) that are going to be distributing their products outside of the United States Customs territory, it allows the companies to defer property taxes and also it's beneficial when they import large volumes of goods.

"I think its important to understand that tonight is simply a support letter, a resolution of support, for the entity to make application. This does not indicate that they would be successful in that, but it does allow the support for that application to take place.

"This particular resolution, in their opinion, is the first stage. They really need to determine whether or not the community will support them on a foreign trade zone designation."

Rains said that the next step is for Tractor Supply to apply for the foreign trade designation. He said that would probably be done through the city of Phoenix, which has been designated as an agency.

"It will be evaluated and if they meet the criteria then the designation would take place and as such the property tax initiative would come in place," he said.


Monday night's actions by the City Council

(Posted May 19, 2014)


You'll find the full agenda at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/

Clicking on an agenda item brings up staff reports and other supporting documents when available.


Actions Monday night by the City Council include:


• Gave final approval to change the name of Ocotilla Street to Ocotillo.

• Again tabled a vote on changes to city codes, awaiting proposed revision of the proposed code requiring fire sprinklers in new homes of more than 5,000 square feet.

• Approved a sewer line agreement with developers of the proposed PhoenixMart. The item had been delayed because PhoenixMart wanted financial guarantees to be the land upon which the project will be built. Developers have now agreed that the guarantees will be monetary, not land.

• Decided that money for community development will be spent to continue the owner-occupied housing rehabilitation program.

• Approved a resolution supporting a foreign trade zone designation for a proposed distribution center near the southeast corner of Burris and Peters roads.

• Accepted the resignation of Lyle Riggs from the Board of Adjustment and appointed Debra Shaw-Rhodes.

• Appointed Riley Allen, Jicell Butron, Olivia Carter, Skylar Goodsell, Madison Ramirez Mazahevi, Savanna McMahon, Guillermo Pinon, Holly Rakoci, Sarah White and Brittany Williams to the Casa Grande Youth Commission and reappointed Zoe Cooper, Brooklyn Johnson, Kelcy Johnson, Arriana Jones, Kris Mejia and Nadia Rivas.

• Approved an agreement between the Fire Department and Central Arizona College for riding along with firefighters as part of paramedic and emergency medical technician training.

• Gave initial approval to spending $131,000 for purification chemicals at the city sewage treatment plant.


Casa Grande jobless rate drops to 6.7 percent

(Posted May 16, 2014)


Partial unemployment statistics posted by the Arizona Department of Administration show Casa Grande with a jobless rate of 6.7 percent during April, down from 7.7 during March. 

The statistics for Casa Grande showed 1,391 people out of work during April, down from 1,626 for March. 

Casa Grande had a 3.7 percent jobless rate for April 2007, the year before the economy crashed. 

The drop in the jobless rate was mirrored in other Pinal County cities and throughout the state. 


An article in the Phoenix Business Journal HERE gives a perspective.


Pinal County had an April rate of 6.5 percent jobless (9,154 without work), down from 7.8 (11,033) during March. 

Statistics from the state usually include unincorporated areas and Indian communities, but the state said those figures are still being revised, thus only cities are included for April. No release date for the other statistics was given.

Other cities' statistics are:

Coolidge

6.2 percent jobless rate for April (288 unemployed), down from 7.4 percent (347) during March. 

Eloy

10.2 rate for April (400 jobless), down from 12.1 (482) during March. 

Florence

8.4 rate for April (265 jobless), down from 10.1 during March (324). 

Maricopa city

6.1 rate for April (1,219 jobless), down from 7.3 during March (1,467).


Initial steps taken to change Ocotilla Street name;
city cites emergency services conflict with Ocotillo

(Posted May 10, 2014)


The staff report is HERE


Dosty's 1958 Final Plat is HERE


A sample notification letter is HERE


A returned envelope is HERE



As that old song puts it about a couple about to be married:

You say eee-ther and I say eye-ther

You say n-eee-ther and I say n-eye-ther

Let's call the whole thing off.


In Casa Grande, you say Ocotill-ah and I say Octotill-oh.

The city is calling the whole thing off, changing Ocotilla Street to Ocotillo Street on the basis of ending confusion both with mail and emergency services.

The move received initial approval May 5 from the City Council.

In actuality, Ocotilla Street has been around far longer than Ocotillo, but the planning staff said they base their decision on Ocotillo being the proper name of the plant, not the feminine Ocotilla.

(On the other hand, plain old Ocotillo is probably better than other names by which the shrub is known. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum fact sheet says it is also called Candlewood, Slimwood, Coachwhip, Vine Cactus, Flaming Sword and Jacob's Staff. Some of those, though, are probably too long for a street sign.)

Ocotilla Street came to Casa Grande in 1953 with the platting of Poole's Second Addition Final Plat, followed by Dosty's Final Plat in 1958, Northside Final Plat (for which a date is not listed) and Casa Grande Vista Unit Two Final Plat in 1972. The first three are West Ocotilla, the last one is East Ocotilla.

Confusion appeared in 2000, when West Ocotillo Street was platted in The Cottonwoods Final Plat on the west side of the city. 

"This confusion partially stems from spelling errors due to the fact that the proper name of the indigenous plant is “Ocotillo” with “Ocotilla” being the incorrect gender of that name," the staff report says.

"The incorrect spelling is creating some problems with the ability to identify the street to show up on GPS, to be recognized by the post office, some of those kinds of identification issues," Planning and Development Director Paul Tice told the council.

In preparation for the proposed change, the city sent out 148 letters to people who would be affected by the change.

The staff report says 38 letters were returned after failing to be delivered, 12 were returned due to the use of the Ocotillo spelling of the street name in the supplied mailing address, 11 for the location being vacant, three for the supplied mailing address being invalid and two for closed post office boxes.

"Of the 148 letters that were sent, we received seven phone calls," Tice said. "Three were in support, three were opposition, one had no answer when called back.

There was a brief exchange between Tice and Councilman Karl Montoya.

MONTOYA: The three opposed, were you able to convince them or were they still opposed at the end of the day?

TICE: I think they were still opposed at the end of the day.

MONTOYA: What were their reasons, mainly?

TICE: It's the historic name, it's been there forever, what's the problem, why change it.

MONTOYA: I guess to build on that, how much of a problem has the city endured with the old name? I think everybody just calls it Ocotillo anyway, so a lot of people never knew.

TICE: If you put it into the GPS, the GPS does not recognize Ocotilla. So they probably have some problems with the UPS deliveries, the FedEx deliveries.

I suspect that locally our fire and police are pretty well used to it, but Ocotillo and Ocotilla there's two of them, you really shouldn't have. 

If we're going to leave Ocotilla alone, we probably should change the Ocotillo name, because they're too close together.

MONTOYA: I guess what I'm trying to get at is, who initiated this changeover, although the citizens aren't complaining about it?

TICE: Staff initiated it, based on a street naming issue that we have identified.

We've actually identified a number of them. This was one of the ones that was a fairly simple solution, but we have identified a fairly good list of street name numbering issues that we will be bringing to the council over time.

MONTOYA: But it's safe to say citizens didn't complain about it, UPS was getting through, the mail was getting through.

MAYOR BOB JACKSON: We don't know.

MONTOYA: If people weren't getting their stuff they ordered and things like that, that would have came up a long time ago. 

This name (Ocotilla) has been like that for how long?

JACKSON: Since the plat was originally platted.

MONTOYA: Exactly.

Councilwoman Mary Kortsen questioned how aware residents would be if problems arose.

"I imagine there could be some problems with it," she said, "but people don't know to call the city and say you're causing me a problem.

"At this point in time because of more and more use of UPS and using GPS systems and that, it's spelled wrong. That's not right."

Noting that the city received only seven responses to its notification letters, Councilman Ralph Varela asked if the letters addressed some of the potential consequences, including what residents would have to do.

"Yes," Tice replied. "We did note that the change would aid in the proper routing of emergency services, removing the issues of future sales due to conflicting information, help ensure that GPS devices would be able to locate the property. We discussed that in more depth with the persons who contacted us."

Tice outlined some other factors.

"We did look at what was the impact on the residents financially in terms of this," he said. "And it really is little actual direct financial impact. 

The assessor's office will automatically change their official record and their mailing address. We'll contact the post office and have that changed.

"So between city staff and the county staff much of the official notification of changes to that will occur. 

"Residents will have to, you know, contact their financial institutions and others about the street name change. Residents have self-addressed envelope or address stickers or those kind of things, those would have to be changed eventually as well."

Tice said he did not know how long the post office will deliver to the old address. When the postal service changed ZIP codes in Casa Grande, residents were sent notifications spelling out how long 85222 would be honored before delivery was halted because 85122 was not being used.

With Ocotillo/Ocotilla, Tice said, "My understanding is that the post office will continue to sort of honor both addresses for a time period, sort of phase it out, so it won't happen overnight from that standpoint. But the official change will happen fairly rapidly.

"We would, of course, notify all residents by letter that this happened, answer any questions they might have in terms of what they might need to do. But typically it's just like moving, you're going to have to contact folks who send you mail and make some adjustments. The change is so minor, though, I suspect there will be few problems.

"But in the bigger scheme of things, because we're able to provide emergency services, mail properly, identify the street properly we think the costs, any of those small costs, are outweighed by the benefits."

Councilman Dick Powell agreed.

"It's a hardship when you've had an address and you've received mail at a certain place to change it," he said, "but when it begins to affect mail and also public safety response it's a concern."

The council, including Montoya, voted for initial approval of the change.


Final adoption of updated city codes delayed

(Posted May 10, 2014)


You'll find the complete code section HERE


Adoption of updated building and other codes in Casa Grande has been delayed until a contractor's question about fire sprinkling requirements has been resolved.

Final approval was to come Monday night (May 5) during the City Council meeting, but Councilman Matt Herman asked that it be pulled from the agenda for discussion.

"It was brought to my attention today by a contractor that a residential home of 5,000 square feet and above has to be sprinkled under this new code," Herman said. 

"This particular house was 3,900 square feet livable, then the garage and patio takes it over the 5,000 so that requires it to be sprinkled. In addition to that, in order to have a sprinkler system on your home you have to upsize the water meter, so that's a big cost."

Herman said his concern was that many smaller homes have those patios, common throughout Arizona and counted as livable space, and the size of them sends the total square footage over 5,000.

The proposed code section in question says:

One- and two-family dwellings exceeding 5,000 square feet per structure shall be provided an automatic sprinkler system per 2012 International Fire Code Section 903.2.8, as amended.

Exception: An automatic residential fire sprinkler system shall not be required for additions or alterations to existing buildings that are not already provided with an automatic residential sprinkler system. 

"I propose we table this until we can get it worked out," Herman said.

Planning and Development Director Paul Tice responded, "We certainly can research that and come back with a report to council on what the requirements are for sprinkling of homes that are over 5,000 under our current codes, as well as the proposal, and those issues that you bring. We'll certainly have the report back for the next meeting."

The vote to table the agenda item was unanimous.


Appointments made to city boards, commission

(Posted May 9, 2014)


The City Council has appointed new members to three boards and a commission and reappointed others.

Anabel Bevan was appointed to the Police Advisory Board. Reappointed were Rodolfo Calvillo, Johnjaline Cully and Mikel McBride.

Stephen Gentzkow was appointed to the Planning and Zoning Commission, along with reappointment of Brett Benedict, Joel Braunstein, and Fred Tucker.

Gene Lehman, Warren Truman and Byron Mays were reappointed to the Part-Time Firefighters Board of Trustees.

Mark Bonsall was appointed to the Fire and Police Personnel Retirement Board.


     Chart shows five-year sewer rate projections

Public hearing set on raising CG's sewer rates;
water rate increase is not by Arizona Water Co.

(Posted May 6, 2014)


The sewer financials are HERE


You'll find the water rates chart HERE


The water financials are HERE


The approval Monday night of an intent to raise city residential sewer rates by $5 monthly and increase other categories, along with raising rates for a small water company Casa Grande owns in the Copper Mountain area, sets the stage for public hearings.

No increase in the city's trash collection rate is requested.

Two major things were pointed out prior to the approval: The intent itself does not increase the sewer rates. The water increases are for the city company, not for Arizona Water Co., which services most of Casa Grande.

All the approval does, Finance Director Doug Sandstrom said, "is say that we're going to start thinking about that, we're going to look at it and we're going to get public input and consider it at a future date," which will be a public hearing on June 16.

"We're going to have a workshop (June 2) prior to the public hearing to go over those in detail with the council to make sure that council is fully aware what is included in the rates and what it is that we're looking at."

Sandstrom said the city has projected rates for the next five years, but that the Finance Department is asking for final approval only for increases on Aug. 1 this year and July 1 next year.

"That will set it in motion so we don't have to go through the whole process all over again," Sandstrom said. "It sets the expectations for the residents, as well as the customers."

He also pointed out that during the public hearing the council could decide on lower increases but cannot go higher than what is in the chart (above).

The sewer increases, affecting the city's 14,500 customers, are needed because projections show that income will not catch up with expenses until fiscal year 2019, Sandstrom said.

His presentation compared the $33.70 monthly rate that Casa Grande would have with rates in neighboring cities.

That shows Coolidge $15.23 monthly, Arizona City at $24, Eloy at $26, Florence at $40.30 and the city of Maricopa at $62.91.

"These are rates that they currently charge and we're comparing it to what we're proposing," Sandstrom said. "We do not know if they're proposing increases or what they have in store or in mind with their services."

The main reason for the increases, Sandstrom told the council, is the amount of debt because of major sewer plant expansions.

Mayor Bob Jackson pointed out that the sewer plant debt "isn't a level number, it goes up and down. The way we structured the bond, there was a smaller number for a few years and then go up." That led Councilman Matt Herman to asked if that debt could be restructured to level the amounts.

"That's absolutely something we'll be talking with the Arizona Water Infrastructure Financing Authority to see what we can do about restructuring whenever it makes sense for us to do that," Sandstrom replied.

Councilman Dick Powell said increasing the monthly sewer service charge by $14 over five years "probably bothers me as much as anything has since I've been on the council. Although tonight we're just voting for a hearing, I personally would like to get a lot more information and look at what might be some alternatives. I know everybody up here is concerned with it."


Is it too big for Casa Grande?
On split vote, P&Z Commission says no, it's not

(Posted May 3, 2014)


You'll find information about the Caliche backers at

http://linkseniordevelopment.com/our-portfolio/

and at

http://linkseniordevelopment.com/about-us/ownerceo/


The PowerPoint presentation, with financials, is HERE


The agenda and staff reports are at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/


How big is too big for Casa Grande?

If it's a proposed assisted living facility that's mostly a three-story, 52,370-square-feet building that's 35 feet high put onto about 4.9 acres, it's too big and would overpower the northeast corner of Peart Road and Cottonwood Lane, one Planning and Zoning Commission member said before voting against a conditional use permit and major site plan.

The $19-million project, which the commission passed over the objections of Mike Henderson and Joel Braunstein, will be known as Caliche Senior Living, offering 83 assisted living units, 32 memory care beds for demential or Alzheimer's patients and an adult day care center for persons who may be living with their families but are homebound while the children are at work.

Although from a separate developer, Caliche would tie in with the proposed Villas Plus by Mary T expansion just to the north, offering cross connections and cross services. That plan was approved unanimously.

Aside from questions about traffic and drainage, the Caliche discussion centered on size.

"It has more than an acre and a quarter floor plan in it," commission member Mike Henderson said. "It's an enormous building, it's going to be the tallest building for miles in any direction, it's on a small lot, there aren't any setbacks.

"Have we had any discussions about how massive this thing is, are there some options that have been considered?"


The evaluation

City Planner Jim Gagliardi replied that city staff had evaluated the proposal.

"I believe that the applicant made some good design choices by placing the building in the center of the site," he said, "and the reason for that is so that it's not close to any one particular use. Even it does have a large footprint, it more than meets what the setback requirements are.

"The other thing that is good to mention is that because the property to the south fronting Cottonwood is zoned B1, that's a commercial use (which also allows 35-feet-high buildings). Directly north of that B1 is residential uses. There's Villas by Mary T and then further north than that there's Highland Manor, which is single-family residential.

"What's really ideal and works in the applicant's favor is that the senior living facility is a good transitional use because it buffers the impact you get with the business zone to the south from the lower intensity residential zones to the north.

"This facility, which is more residential in appearance even though it's bulk and scale is large,  has design elements that are indicative of a residential design. And then as you go further north than that you have these single-story four-plexes and six-plexes (in the new Mary T complex), so you get a little bit less intense. And by the time you get north of Mary T you're in a single-family residential area."

Gagliardi also noted that the southwest corner of Peart and Cottonwood also allows commercial buildings.

"So there's going to be a lot of transition within the next couple of years with development that comes to this corner," he said, "but the presence of the assisted living facility will help make the area a little bit more compatible because there'll be this residential facility that's buffering the business uses that are to the south and west from the residential use that are to the east and north."

That didn't wash with Henderson.

"My opinion is still that it's too big," he said, "and I wish that we would put this off for a month and have you go discuss with the applicant whether we can take a setback step or take the top layer (of the building) off, or what is financially feasible for the applicant.

"I think we need this kind of thing, and I agree with Mary T that they're complimentary things, but we made a mistake down the street when we put a Cox cable facility building  (Cottonwood and Colorado) in there, because it's too big and too out of scale with the neighborhood. And I really believe this is going to be the same situation and I'm not going to vote for it (in this form)."

Gunnar Langhus, the project architect, said the independent living Mary T villas and the proposed Caliche assisted living and memory care units would work well together.

As Langhus explained it, having three stories in a narrower building rather than spreading the complex widely over a single story shortens distances the tenants have to walk, either to the dining room or other areas, before they become too tired to go on.

"The more activity that we can get from a senior, especially as they're aging, is going to promote their health and their longevity and have a happier, more fulfilling life," he said.

Langhus pointed out that the memory care part of the building would be single story.

Co-owner's view

Ron Ziebart (pictured at left), owner and chief executive officer of Link Development, a co-owner of the project, said a similar project is near completion in Kingman and ground will be broken in Bullhead City in about a month for another.

The Casa Grande project, he said, would cost about $13 million for the building, rising to about $19 million when added costs such as furnishings, land and other items are factored in.

"There's about a 12-month construction from start to completion," he said, "and then the period that it takes to ramp it up. About 18 to 24 months after that we'll be at full capacity."

Henderson was still not satisfied.

"What happens to your operating numbers if you make this building less massive, say for simplicity cut off the top floor?" he asked Ziebart.

Ziebart's response was, "I'm going to answer you -- and I'm not trying to be smart aleck-- it just doesn't work, it just doesn't work. With a business, you've got the revenue and you've got the expenses, and if you cut out a third or maybe 25 percent of the revenue stream it just doesn't financially make sense. We've tried to eliminate just a couple of units and it doesn't make sense.

"We've got this broken down into three different settings. We've got 83 in assisted living, 32 in memory care, and of course the adult day care. 

"Without getting into the specifics of it, I can tell you right now it just doesn't work out. This is the break point for the project for us, by the time you factor in the cost of the property, cost of permits, cost of road improvements things that we're going to deal with, the drainage. If you reduce that by 25 or 30 percent, you've got the same costs associated and you're trying to spread that over fewer units. The cost per unit just starts skyrocketing when you take out 25 percent or 30 percent of your building."

Henderson said that his understanding is that in health care the biggest piece of ongoing costs is staffing "and I would think that fewer units would result in fewer staffing."

That's true for ongoing operational costs, Ziebart replied, but the initial cost is fixed.

As an example, he said, the kitchen equipment is going to cost about $180,000. 

"I'm going to have the same kitchen design if I have 106 people in that building or if I have 86 people," he continued. "The property cost is fixed, we've already purchased the property. The ongoing cost isn't the overall effect. My loan, my overall financial impact on the initial cost of those things, the street improvements, the drainage, they're going to be the same if I do 30 units or 150 units. 

"So what happens is there's a point where you have to balance the initial cost. It isn't so much the ongoing cost to manage it, but if I have a debt service of $16 million instead of 15, that's the difference between breaking it or not breaking it. We've lost the revenue stream of that many units to cover that debt service. My short story is, it just doesn't work."

Henderson said he was willing to accept the answer that it just doesn't work, "but I can't support it being what it is. Is there a halfway ground in there someplace?"

"I don't think so," Ziebart answered.

"We came in and spent over a hundred thousand dollars just to get to this point in design, with the understanding that we're meeting the criteria on the height restriction. We're trying to help create a transition. If we weren't here, the buildings up, and then commercial comes and builds a 35-foot building there, they have no transition at that point. 

"I'm answering your question but I'm hoping I'm trying to convince you that I think we're a benefit to the overall transition along that street than we are a determent. In fact, I know we are. We're going to be probably the best landscaped project in this city, I guarantee it. I can show you projects in Montana and in Oregon that they're just phenomenal, they look great.

"I'm not trying to do a sales pitch on you, that's just the honest truth." 

Henderson said he has been close to the health care industry for a long time, although not as a care professional, and does understand feasibility, depreciation and operating numbers.

"My question has been, is there something you can do to make me happier than I am, because if you can't, then I can't vote for it," he said. "That is too big for that corner."


Divided views

Other commission opinion was divided.

Braunstein said he appreciates the idea of Caliche and Mary T interacting, "but we still have to evaluate each one of these proposals separately. The fact that you may think that you're going to Mary T or vice versa, it really doesn't matter."

Ruth Lynch said the photos of the proposed Caliche building shown during the presentation (which were not part of the packet earlier made available to the commission) clarified it for her.

"If we were talking a three-story, 53,000-square-foot building that's straight up, three-story box building," she said, "that to me would not be inviting for the population you're looking for in the first place. But secondly, it would be more of an industrial looking type facility which, in my opinion, would not be appropriate in that neighborhood area. As you said, it's not a total three-story building and it's not a square industrial looking building."

Brett Benedict said he understands Henderson's issues with the project, but the presentation allowed a vision of what it looks like. 

"Certainly the kind of facilities and services that we need," he said, "and particularly considering that commercial (corner) issue, to have that buffer I think it's a good facility to have."

Lynch added, This is not an exception to our zoning code, it meets the requirements of the code."

Braunstein responded that, "We've talked about this before -- I have, too -- that our job is 'planning' and zoning. Just because it's according to code doesn't mean it has to be passed, or else there wouldn't be a need for a commission."

Chairman Jeff Lavender said the fact that Mary T officials and residents were in the audience in support of the Caliche project meant much to him. 

Those included Mary Tjosvold (the T of Mary T). "She would be probably the one who would be the most financially impacted if the building was an eyesore," Lavender said, "and she's here in support, so that's why I'm inclined to support it."

Commission member Fred Taylor said that in his business he works with people that need the types of services to be offered "and it's something that we need options in this community and financially feasible. I like it and I'm glad you guys are here."

The vote on the conditional use permit and the site plan was 4-2, with Henderson and Braunstein opposed.

"I acknowledge all the good things everybody's said," Henderson said, "but I think the building's too big. I vote no."

No construction start date for Caliche was given. Mary T officials said their expansion could start toward the end of this year.


Villas by Mary T expansion, plus adjoining assisted
living, memory care unit on Thursday's P&Z agenda

UPDATE: Both items were approved Thursday night by the Planning and Zoning Commission.


(Posted April 28, 2014)


You'll find the agenda and complete staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/


An expansion of the Villas by Mary T and an adjoining assisted living facility are on the agenda when the Planning and Zoning Commission meets Thursday.

The meeting, open to the public, is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.

The construction will be on now vacant land to the west of Villas by Mary T at the northeast corner of Peart Road and Cottonwood Lane.

Part of it is to be known as Villas Plus by Mary T, consisting of 20 single-story buildings, broken down as 16 fourplexes, three simplexes and one building housing two attached units and a clubhouse.

To the south on the same property, but by a different developer, would be the three-story 52,370-square-feet Caliche Senior Living Facility, consisting of assisted living units, a section for Alzheimer's or memory problems patients and an adult day care service. It would have 28 studio units, 51 one-bedroom units and two two-bedroom units. The memory problems section would have 10 private rooms and 11 semiprivate ones.

In a letter to the city, the Caliche developers said, "The memory care portion of the facility will be secured with monitored exists and keypad entry for all doors. Recreational facilities and open spaces for memory care patients are completely enclosed and secured to ensure the safety of patients."

The letter said the assisted living part "will feature housing for seniors who are in need of assisted living facilities that are a step down from a traditional nursing home where medical procedures are performed by staff. The facility will feature active recreational activities and opportunities for socialization for residents.

"An additional adult day care service will operate in the Caliche Senior Living Facility. The adult day care services will allow seniors who living with family and may have otherwise been homebound during the day to enjoy recreational and social activities with Caliche residents in a safe, supervised setting."


Board of Supervisors meetings to be on internet

(Posted April 28, 2014)


Pinal County issued this statement, in part, today:


People who are interested in the decisions of the Board of Supervisors but cannot make the meetings in Florence now have a way to stay informed. Beginning on Wednesday, April 30, the meetings will be live on the internet.

Go to http://www.pinalcountyaz.gov to log into live and archived meetings. 

"It is all about transparency," said Chairman Anthony Smith. "Many of my constituents from District 4 were unable to make the meetings in person, so I asked our Communications Department to see what options were available to meet our resident's needs."

If a person would like to research past decisions, the clerk of the board's office will have archived video of six month's worth of meetings on its website. The link will also include videos of supervisor interviews and other Channel Pinal shows. 

"The best part of this system is the feature where a viewer can click on a corresponding item in our agenda and see just that discussion and vote," Smith said. "There will be no need to watch the entire board meeting to get to just one item."


Attachments to manufactured homes, park models
tweaked prior to adoption of latest building codes

(Posted April 28, 2014)


Scroll down page for earlier stories on care homes and property maintenance codes changes


In taking the first steps toward adoption of model 2012 codes offered by the International Building Code Council, the Casa Grande Planning and Development Department has amended some of them to better reflect local conditions.

Those model codes, issued about every three years, are not mandatory, allowing cities to reject them, adopt them as a whole or amend them to meet city needs.

One of the amendments concerns additions to park model and manufactured homes.

That was outlined to the City Council earlier by Planning and Development Director Paul Tice and again in brief form by Dwight Williams, chief building official, prior to the council giving initial approval to adoptions. (Final approval is expected during the May 5 council meeting.)

"Most of the discussion had to do with the attachment of patio covers, shade structures, carports," Tice told the council during the earlier briefing.

"The unamended building code, or residential code, requires that information be provided from the manufacturer of that park model that shows that that park model can withstand the load weight of attaching that structure, using the park model itself to support the structure on one side and then, of course, the vertical posts on the other. 

"And the weight really isn't a downward weight, it's pretty light in weight. It's an upward weight, an upward lift load from the wind, really withstand that wind load."

That was discussed at length within the department, Tice said, and research was done on how other communities are handling the issue.

"We ended up with a position of amending the code that we feel comfortable with, that these additions that are pre-engineered can be installed in accordance with the manufacturer's installation and the manufacturer's standard engineering requirement without having the property owner to have to go out and do specific engineering for each park model or manufactured home that they need to attach to.

"There was a past practice to allow this to occur. There was a shift with the new building official to ask for engineering, and so we're really going back to that past practice. But we feel comfortable after talking to many communities in Arizona that allow construction of these that our approach is in line with how they're doing it, as well."

                                         (Story continues beneath picture)

In a related code issue, Tice covered what kind of work is exempt from needing a building permit.

"One of the things that came up in the discussions with the Board of Appeals was certain accessory structures would not need permits," he said. "This is exactly what we have in the code today, we just carried this forward (as an amendment to the 2012 code). 

"It's residential accessory structures of 200 square feet or less and commercial accessory of 120 square feet or less do not not need permits. Just build them.

"Staff's concern is, though, that because if they're exempted from permits that we have to be careful that the perception isn't that there are no rules in there on the construction of these structures. There are zoning rules regarding setbacks, we still have to comply with building setbacks.

"Although they're exempt from building permitting, you still do need a site plan approval to show us where you're going to put it and let us review it to make sure it meets requirements."


Councilman Powell asks for push to solve problem
that's preventing Evergreen area flood irrigation

(Posted April 23, 2014)


A push needs to be made to solve the problem of residents in the Evergreen area not having irrigation water, Councilman Dick Powell said during Monday night's City Council meeting.

Much of the area, to the north and east of City Hall, is part of an irrigation district allowing residents to deep water, or flood irrigate, their properties.

That irrigation system has been around for years. The Evergreen Historic District survey points out that the 1928 platting of the area required that:

"All lots owners shall be required to pay their pro rata share of pumping expenses for irrigation water used on said premises …"

The problem, Powell said, is apparently that the pumping system has broken down, something that is bringing a lot of calls to him inquiring about the situation.

"What's happened right now," he said, "is that Evergreen section is no longer able to be irrigated. And going into summer, it's a bad time and people are quite excited about finding out."

Powell, speaking at the end of the meeting during council reports, said a request for bids to determine what is wrong with the pump was put out, but there has been no response so far.

What residents in the Evergreen area "would really love to have happen is really get it done as quickly as possible," he said.

"I know the ones that live there pay for it. Now whether that pays the full cost, I don't know about that, but they are billed for the irrigation and how many times they irrigate."

The area is noted for its large trees, Powell said, "and I've talked to somebody else that said in another community what happens is when you flood irrigate a lot of those roots are way out to the edges (of the property)  and if they don't get watered right the trees start to die. In their community they had a lot of those trees die.

"There's so much pride in people that bought land in that Evergreen area because of the trees and everything, they're real concerned."

Addressing Deputy City Manager Larry Rains, Powell asked for "anything we could do to kind of push that along and try to get somebody to give an estimate and let people understand what it is, are they going to need to get the hoses out and run all summer, what do we need to do. 

"I think the biggest question right, is they're just wondering what's happening."


Police cars, street sweeper get initial approval

(Posted April 21, 2014)


Casa Grande City Council actions Monday night include:

• Gave initial approval to purchase of eight 2014 Chevrolet Caprice patrol vehicles for the Police Department at a cost of $251,541. 

• Gave initial approval to purchase of a street sweeper at a cost of $223,029.

• Gave initial approval to purchasing a front-load chassis for the Sanitation Division at a cost of $73,770. It includes an existing for lift body.

• Gave initial approval to changes in various city codes. Explanations are in the staff report of the agenda item HERE.

• Accepted the resignation of Regis Sommers from the Board of Appeals and appointed Kenneth Miller.

• Reappointed Louise E. Zals to the Heritage Commission.

• Appointed Bill Bridwell to the Historic Preservation Commission.

• Forwarded local approval to the Arizona Board of Liquor Licenses and Control for extending the patio permit for Wonder Bar for motorcycle events on May 3, Aug. 2 and Oct. 4.


Fire sprinklers for residential care or assisted living
homes before City Council during Monday meeting

UPDATE: Initial approval was given during the City Council meeting of April 21


(Posted April 18, 2014)


You'll find the regular council agenda for Monday HERE


The study sessions agenda is HERE


Scroll down page for earlier story on property maintenance code proposal


One of the City Code changes to be discussed by the City Council during Monday night's meeting concerns sprinkling systems in residential care or assisted living homes.

It's part of the Planning and Development Department looking at the model 2012 codes offered by the International Building Code Council. Those model codes, issued about every three years, are not mandatory, allowing cities to reject them, adopt them as a whole or amend them to meet city needs.

Casa Grande now operates under codes from 2003. Those were to be updated, but that was halted when the Arizona Legislature, under another law to control cities, banned updates. That has now been lifted, Planning and Development Director Paul Tice said during an earlier briefing for the City Council.

The recommendation to the council is to retain four areas from the 2003 code regarding sprinkler systems. Those exemptions are:

• R-4 group occupancies, legally existing as of March 30, 2008, shall not be required to install automatic sprinkler system unless there is an upward change in the number of occupants the facility is licensed to care for.

• State licensed residential care/assisted living facilities in which all of the care recipients are capable of self-preservation and responding to an emergency situation without assistance from another person.

• State licensed care/assisted living facility, legally existing as of March 30, 2008, in which some of the care recipients are capable of self-preservation and responding to emergency situations without assistance from another person.

• (Multifamily) occupancies with less than 5,000 square feet.

In the 2003 version, Tice told the council, "We also added a definition defines residential/assisted. We carried that definition forward. Basically it's a group for six to 10 people and it's a wide range of various group homes.

"And the reason why that definition is important is because it relates to whether or not these group homes are required to have fire sprinkler or not. 

"The 2012 building code requires all residential occupancies essentially to be sprinkled.

"So as a local amendment, we say no. Here in Casa Grande we're going to have four exceptions to that rule, and those are the same exceptions we had in the 2003 code."

In describing the categories, Tice said the R-4 occupancy "is really a group home with six to 10 people that if it legally existed as of when we adopted the prior code shall not be required to install sprinkler system unless there's an upward change in the number of occupants.

"So, it's licensed for eight and they're going to increase it to 10, we will require sprinkling if they're an R-4 occupancy. In an R-4 occupancy, the occupants would not be capable of self preservation."

The second category, Tice said, covers state-licensed residential care/assisted living facilities that offer care to ones capable of self preservation in an emergency situation without assistance. 

"So" he said, "you could build today a new residential care/assisted living for 10 people as long as they are all capable self preservation in an emergency, no sprinkler system is required.

"If you think about in this particular category, there's different kinds of group homes. You might be group home for elderly, group home for mentally disabled, you may have a group home for recovering alcoholics. They're very different groups in terms of ability to self preserve in cases of emergency, so this particular exemption acknowledges that."

The third exemption is basically the same as the first, Tice said, "but we left it in even though it probably covers almost the same territory as the number one exemption."

Public hearings. sometimes testy, were held over several months as the proposals were being put together.

"We had a lot of discussion," Tice said. "We invited all the operators of existing group homes of six to 10 to our public hearing and there was a lot of discussion about whether or not the existing group homes that are not sprinkled where people are not capable of self preservation should be sprinkled or not.

"Our initial proposal was they should be sprinkled, over a certain period of time. We've backed off that and based on the testimony we heard and we're staying with the current 2003 amendments that are in place that does not require them to sprinkle unless they increase their occupant load."


Casa Grande unemployment rate goes to 7.8%

(Posted April 17, 2014)


You can check other cities in the state HERE


Check other counties HERE


Partial unemployment statistics posted today by the Arizona Department of Administration show Casa Grande with a jobless rate of 7.8 percent during March, up from 7.4 during February. 

The statistics for Casa Grande showed 1,633 people out of work during March, up from 1,527 for February. 

Casa Grande had a 3.9 percent jobless rate for March 2007, the year before the economy crashed. That was 654 people without work. The 2007 average was 4.1, or 693 out of work.

Pinal County also had a March rate of 7.8 percent jobless (11,069 without work), up from 7.5 during February. The county's 2013 average was 8.8 (12,112 jobless).

Statistics from the state usually include unincorporated areas and Indian communities, but the state said those figures are still being revised, thus only cities are included for March. No release date for the other statistics was given.

Other cities' statistics are:

Coolidge

7.4 percent jobless rate for March (348 unemployed), up from 7.1 percent during February. The 2013 average rate was 8.2 percent (379 unemployed).

Eloy

12.1 rate for March (484 jobless), up from 11.6 during February. The 2013 average rate was 13.3 (527 jobless).

Florence

10 rate for March (321 jobless), up from 9.7 during February. The 2013 average rate was 9.8 (309 jobless).

Maricopa city

7.4 rate for March (1,495 jobless), up from 7.2 during February. The 2013 average rate was 8.1 (1,605 jobless).


City working on updating airport layout plan

(Posted April 16, 2014)


Casa Grande is seeking professionals to prepare an updated airport layout plan, leading the facility into the future.

The work includes documenting the current and future short-term facility, operational and management challenges that the airport faces, including recommendations on how to handle them. Forecasts of aviation demands is also to be included, as is a financial plan.

The existing layout of the airport is to be documented and a proposed layout plan submitted.


You'll find the complete request for qualifications HERE


You'll find the airport master plan at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/publicworks/airport/airport-master-plan/


General airport information is at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/publicworks/airport/


Ross honored for almost 25 years with city

Mayor Bob Jackson, above right, reads from a plaque honoring Gilbert Ross for almost 25 years with the city. At left, Ross addresses the council during his retirement ceremony.


(Posted April 7, 2014)


Gilbert Ross was honored by the City Council during Monday's meeting upon his retirement as a parks maintenance worker overseeing irrigation systems.

Ross began with the city Dec. 11, 1989, retiring this April 4, meaning almost 25 years on the job.

"It's bittersweet when we have retirees come in" Major Bob Jackson told Ross, "because while it's nice to see that you're retiring, we hate to see you go.

"For those who don't know, Gilbert worked for what's now the Community Services Department, used to be the Parks and Recreation Department.

"You've handled the irrigation systems for as long as I've known, so for those of you in the Evergreen District that have irrigation, Gilbert is the guy that's taken care of you all these years."

"Gilbert, I wish you well in retirement and I'm sure it will be a nice long retirement. I hope you have lots of plans and things to do. Thank you, Gilbert, for your service."

Ross was given a plaque marking his service and a camcorder as a retirement gift.

"You can go on YouTube," Jackson said.

Ross said, "I want to thank the mayor, the City Council, the city manager for the great job you do for the city, keep us working and keep the city move along.

"It's been a pleasure and a blessing to work here for the city of Casa Grande."

Councilman Dick Powell said, "Gilbert, you have time to go hunting now."

Jackson added, "And he's got a camcorder to record it."


First step taken to clear way for major bakery on west side keying to healthy food products

(Posted April 5, 2014)


You'll find the Food for Life philosophy and other information at

http://www.foodforlife.com/


Definitions of zoning districts, such as I-1



The old song asks, Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy …

Well, in Casa Grande it depends upon where you're located. Your kitchen, OK; big bakeries, not always.

The Planning and Zoning Commission has sent a recommendation to the City Council to change that, opening the way for a 150,000-square-foot bakery keying on the health angle, including breads, buns, cereals, croutons, English muffins, pasta, pocket breads, tortillas, vegan meats and waffles.

As it now stands, on-site sale bakeries of less than 3,500 square feet are allowed in the four business zoning districts. Bakeries larger than that are allowed only in the I-2 zoning district.

That leaves Food for Life out in the cold. It's a California baking company that bought a 75,000-square-foot building at Gila Bend Highway and Thornton Road, intending to double it in size. 

The problem is, the location is in the I-1 zoning district -- bakeries not permitted.

An irony is that other food processing businesses such as Daisy Brand, Franklin Foods, Ehrmann/Commonwealth Dairy are I-1 district neighbors, thus legal because they are not bakeries.

As City Planner Keith Newman put it for the commission, "They're all food processing uses and these are uses that are very similar to a large commercial, industrial type of bakery. In fact, from the outside of these businesses you would probably not even be able to tell the difference between those food processing uses and the bakery that is being proposed by the Food for Life bakery company."

Simply put, the proposed changes delete the size regulations, classing the business districts as retail bakery allowed. The industrial designations would change to bakery commercial in both I-1 and I-2.

The identify retail bakery as "an establishment primarily engaged in preparing, baking or cooking baked products for on-site retail sales for on-site or off-site consumption, secondly to include incidental on-site food service and distribution to local businesses."

A commercial bakery is defined as "an industrial establishment primarily engaged in manufacturing and distributing of baked products."

Member Ruth Lynch asked if Food for Life would be able to have an area for local retail sales.

"That definition does not stop them from having an accessory sales type area somewhere inside the building," Newman responded. "Food for Life told me that they would probably be selling a product that maybe it's not bad product, it's just stuff that doesn't meet their exact specifications. Maybe it doesn't fit in the bag properly or it's too big, it comes out of the oven too big. Stuff like that that they would possibly or potentially be able to sell on-site. They might have a little tiny store where you can go in and buy their products. So that definition does not preclude them from doing that."

Newman pointed out that bakeries in supermarkets such as Fry's or Safeway do not fall under the regulations because baking is only a small part of the main grocery business.


Automation at a city landfill? Yep, it happens

(Posted April 3, 2014)


You'll find the complete request HERE



When automation is mentioned, we generally think of office equipment, computers and other such things.

But for a city landfill?

Yep.

Casa Grande has issued a request for bids for a replacement for the Tarpomatic 40-foot automatic trapping machine used for alternative daily cover for the active landfill work area.

In case this turns you on, the specifics are:

• Minimum 40-feet-wide tarping capability. 

• Electric-start diesel engine with remote operation. 

• Tarp spool removable from the machine when the tarp is completely deployed to

allow installation of replacement spool and deployment of second tarp.

• Must be adjustable to custom fit and be transported by the blade of a landfill dozer and/or compactor, facilitating quick and easy attachment and removal from

dozer and/or compactor.

Bids are due to the city by April 22.


Proposed property maintenance code keys
on keeping buildings in habitable condition



Pictures used to illustrate a presentation by Planning and Development Director Paul Tice about a property maintenance code were of the former funeral home at Eighth Street and Olive Avenue, long fallen into major disrepair.

UPDATE: Initial approval was given during the City Council meeting of April 21.


(Posted April 1, 2014)


A property maintenance code is being put together by the Casa Grande Planning and Development Department, the first time the city has had such regulations. It's aimed at requiring habitable structures.

The code has not yet been adopted by the City Council and is not in effect.

It's part of the department looking at the model 2012 codes offered by the International Building Code Council. Those model codes, issued about every three years, are not mandatory, allowing cities to reject them, adopt them as a whole or amend them to meet city needs.

Casa Grande now operates under codes from 2003. Those were to be updated, but that was halted when the Arizona Legislature, under another law to control cities, banned updates. That has now been lifted, Planning and Development Director Paul Tice said during a briefing for the City Council.

Only about half of the IBCC property maintenance code would be adopted, Tice said, because the city already has equivalent codes covering those areas.

"For example," he said, "a lot of the (IBCC) property maintenance code talks about the exterior appearance of properties, with maybe rubbish storage, junk storage, those kinds of things, which are already covered in our public nuisance codes. So our guideline was, if we already had an existing code in place that addressed the issue, we didn't to adopt a new code."

Tice said the regulations the city would adopt from the proposed IBCC property maintenance code "really are those that talk about that the structure has to remain habitable. The structure has to have a roof that is not leaking, electrical system that's working, a plumbing system that's working. The floors cannot be rotting out or there can't be situations where the bathtub's falling through the floor."

The proposed amendments would be a tool for the city, Tice said, "to address that situation where there might be a rental, a situation with a tenant and they have a landlord where there are problems with the living unit that are making it uninhabitable and the landlord just won't respond, won't fix, won't do anything.

"I guess the interesting thing to think about with this maintenance code, though, is it doesn't force the landlord to repair a structure. What it does, it tells the landlord if he wants to continue to rent it and for it to be occupied, he has to make those repairs. The landlord or property owner can choose to just vacate the premises and not have anyone living there. 

"Really, this is a property maintenance code, minimum maintenance for habitation, that's the way to think about it.

"If it's uninhabitable, the property owner won't, can't make the repairs, not habitable and they vacate it, we still have our process of saying it's a vacant structure, is it safe or unsafe?

If it's unsafe structure, you still have the process to deal with that in our existing code, which is demolition. We can board it up and make sure it's secured from trespass."

Councilman Dick Powell pointed out that there have been situations with "people that couldn't afford except what they were living in and they were worried if they said something about their landlord he'd kick them out and then they were on the street. Some of them had leaking plumbing behind walls where you had mold accumulating and those kind of things, and felt helpless to do anything about it. This gives them a way to be protected and the city a way to address those situations, so I appreciate that."

There much discussion about the proposal, Councilman Matt Herman said, "and we want to walk the fine line between property rights for the owner and safe habitation. "We didn't want to turn into an HOA as a city. This is more about health and public safety. That was a big consideration that Paul went through and I think we came up with a good solution to where we're not being an HOA but we're making sure that people are in safe situations."

As Tice put it for the council, "It's nowhere near some of those architectural design regulations that an HOA might have.

"Really, the code we're proposing for the property maintenance code are pretty severe code violations, health, safety violations or habitable space. Peeling paint, it's not going to be a violation. But if you have a hole in your roof and the rain's coming in, it would be a violation if someone's living there. If you have stairs, the stairs have to be maintained safe so you can walk on them and use them."

Tice suggested that the council hold a formal study session to go over proposed code amendments in detail. Final versions of the proposals have not been released.


Weeds taking over your alley? You're responsible 
for whacking them down to head off a fire hazard

(Posted March 30, 2014)


You'll find the complete City Code at

http://www.amlegal.com/library/az/casa_grande.shtml


Are weeds taking over your alley?

It's your responsibility to whack them down so that they don't cause a fire hazard.

According to the City Code, you are responsible for upkeep of alleys to the centerline.

A complaint about weeds came from John T. Holland, a frequent complainer about various matters, during the last City Council meeting.

"We now have a crop of weeds growing in the alleyways," he said. "We used have the Fire Department provide a warning, quite awhile back.

"Nobody seems to care. I've had to actually cut some grass away from places (around his Cholla Street home) so I wouldn't have a problem.

"It's bad, I'm telling you. Our alleyways are something else right now."

Mayor Bob Jackson told Holland, "We will get on that. Good point. It's that time of year where it starts drying up."

So far, the city has not posted a general notice on its website.


The City Code has this to say about weeds: 


Section 302.4 

Weeds. All developed premises and exterior property shall be maintained free from weeds in excess of twelve (12) inches. Vacant undeveloped properties shall be maintained free from weed in excess of twenty-four (24) inches. All noxious weeds shall be prohibited. Weeds shall not include cultivated flowers and gardens.

"Upon failure of the owner or agent having charge of a property to cut and destroy weeds after service of a notice of violation, they shall be subject to prosecution in accordance with Section 114 of the Administrative Code and as prescribed by the authority having jurisdiction. Upon failure to comply with the notice of violation, any duly authorized employee of the jurisdiction or contractor hired by the jurisdiction shall be authorized to enter upon the property in violation and cut and destroy the weeds growing thereon, and the costs of such removal shall be paid by the owner or agent responsible for the property.


8.12.140  

Public rights-of-way owner of adjacent property to maintain.

The owner or person in control of any private property shall at all times maintain adjacent unutilized street right-of-way and the portion of the alley contiguous with the property up to the centerline of the alley free of litter.


8.12.300  Abatement procedure.

A. The city shall give reasonable written notice to abate any violation of this chapter to all persons with an interest in the property or agents of such persons.

B. Notice shall contain: 

   1. The legal description of the property;

   2. The cost of such removal to the city if notified persons do not comply;

   3. A date for compliance which shall not be less than 30 days after the date notice was given;

   4. Identification of the property in violation by street address if it exists; and

   5. A statement of the violation(s) in sufficient detail to allow a reasonable person to identify and correct them.

C. Said written notice shall be either personally served, mailed by certified mail at their last known address or the address to which the tax bill for the subject property was last sent; or served in accordance with the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure.

D. The city may record the notice in the Office of Pinal County Recorder.  If such notice is recorded and compliance with the notice is subsequently satisfied, the city shall record a release of the notice.

(Ord. 1397.08.07 § 3 (part), 1998)


8.12.310  

City abatement upon failure to abate by person with interest in property.

A. Upon failure of any notified person, to abate a public nuisance within compliance time set in the written notice, the city may remove, abate, enjoin or cause removal of the violation.

B. Removal, abatement, or the acquisition of an injunction may be accomplished, at the sole discretion of the city, by city staff or an independent contractor.

C. The city manager, or his authorized representative, shall prepare a verified statement and account of the actual cost of abatement action, legal fees, additional inspection and other incidental connected costs.

D. The amount in the verified statement and account is declared as an assessment upon the lot or tract of land on which the violation occurred.  Said assessment may be collected at the same time and in the same manner as other city assessments are collected.

E. A copy of the statement and account shall be personally delivered; sent by certified mail, return receipt requested; or served in accordance with the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure to all persons with an interest in the property and/or their agents.

F. The assessment shall be recorded in the Pinal County Recorder's Office and from the date of its recording shall be a lien on the lot or tract of land and the several amounts assessed against the lot or tract of land until paid.


Casa Grande jobless rate drops 1 percent to 7.4

(Posted March 27, 2014)


You can check other cities in the state HERE


Partial unemployment statistics posted today by the Arizona Department of Administration show Casa Grande with a jobless rate of 7.4 percent during February, down from 8.4 during January. 

The statistics for Casa Grande showed 1,740 people out of work during January, dropping to 1,527 for February. 

Casa Grande had a 4.2 percent jobless rate for February 2007, the year before the economy crashed. The 2007 average was 4.1, or 693 out of work.

Pinal County had a February rate of 7.5 percent jobless (10,450 without work), down from 8.3 during January (11,671). The county's 2013 average was 8.8 (12,112 jobless).

Statistics from the state usually include unincorporated areas and Indian communities, but the state said those figures are still being revised, thus only cities are included for January and February. No release date for the other statistics was given.

Other cities' statistics are:

Coolidge

7.1 percent jobless rate for February (329 unemployed), 7.9 percent during January (367 jobless). The 2013 average rate was 8.2 percent (379 unemployed).

Eloy

11.7 rate for February (457 jobless), 12.9 during January (510). The 2013 average rate was 13.3 (527 jobless).

Florence

9.7 for February (305 jobless), 10.3 for January (326). The 2013 average rate was 9.8 (309 jobless).

Maricopa city

7.2 for February (1,431 jobless), 8.1 for January (1,612 jobless). The 2013 average rate was 8.1 (1,605 jobless).


Is your business ready?
City offers 64-page business disaster preparedness guide

(Posted March 26, 2014)


Although often overlooked, there's a package on the city website that will help your business prepare for a disaster, be it natural or otherwise.

The 64-page package is entitled Disaster Preparedness for Businesses: Ready Your Business.


You can download it from the city website at 

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/files/2013/05/Ready-Your-Business-Guidebook-final.pdf


There are several parts to the package, with checklists and guides covering various emergency situations and costs, but the main one is called 12-Point Program For Success Business Continuity Planning Guidebook.

Those points are:

• Creating a Planning Team

Identify who needs to be on the “team” to effectively represent the organization.

• Continuity of Authority

Designating the chain of authority within the organization and departments.

• Risks and Hazards

Assist the planner in determining a priority and procedure for each potential business interruption by assessing risks and hazards. Evaluating the cost of downtime.

• Internal Resources and Capabilities/External Resources

Evaluate each department or area of the organization to identify resources and capabilities. Identify what external resources are available to the planner and the organization in planning and response.

• Vulnerability Assessment

Planning should include an all hazard analysis to identify types of emergency. Complete a vulnerability assessment.

• Essential Business Functions

Determine each “function” that generates revenue or is essential to normal business operations. Identify what functions must be operating for recovery. Recognize the most critical, time sensitive and analyze cost of downtime.

• Human Resources: Employee/Owner Contacts

Review what you should know about your employees, how to communicate, train and prepare for unexpected events.

• Workplace Evacuation and Sheltering Plan

Safety of employees, customers and clients – Do you evacuate, stay in place or both?

• Workplace Emergency Supply Kit

What should every facility have in case of an emergency? Is there a liability for a business that doesn’t? What should an employee provide?

• Insurance Coverage Review

Most business rely on an insurance policy to carry them through a disaster. Find out what may save your business from permanent closure.

• Vital Records

Identify what is “vital” to normal business operations.

• Data Protection/Storage/Recovery

Protect against the number-one business interruption by developing a backup program and offsite storage procedure with a data recovery program. Establish procedures to safeguard data against outside attacks and employee error. Protect your business against compromised personal information. Test the plan.


Casa Grande embarking on extensive project
to upgrade emergency communications system

(Posted March 19, 2014)


The request is HERE


Additional documents are HERE


Casa Grande is embarking on a major project to upgrade and modernize its emergency communications system.

According to the posting asking for qualified proposals, the work will be to provide and start up a computer-aided dispatch/records management system for the police and fire departments. Additionally, the system would include a law enforcement records management system, mobile data computing, automated field reporting, automatic vehicle location system and conversion of existing records. Training in the new operation would also be provided.

Computer-aided dispatch is the system that manages 911 and nonemergency calls for service and the sending of the calls to police officers or firefighters.

The records management system stores case records and creates statistical reports.

                                          (Story continues below chart)

"The purpose of this project is to implement an updated CAD/RMS for use by public safety departments enabling all users to better analyze public safety trends, link crimes and events, identify suspects or patients, and improve the quality of field reporting and statistical reports," the request says.

"The CAD/RMS project is created to replace the existing CAD/RMS solutions, which the city has used for more than 15 years. The primary drivers of the project are the limited level of functionality offered by the existing system, aging hardware and software, technical support concerns, and to ensure the safety of department personnel. 

"The ultimate goal is to create a combined public safety Emergency Communications Center that encompasses joint communications functions for police, fire and emergency medical resources, and includes an Emergency Operations Center. 

"Casa Grande’s long-range vision includes becoming a regional ECC in support of the needs of neighboring jurisdictions."

The request says specific project objectives include:

• Re-engineer business processes to increase efficiency.

• Reduce handwritten forms and duplication of effort (e.g. entering same data into multiple systems).

• Eliminate nonenterprise level databases and spreadsheets used to track data.

• More accurately deploy resources. For example, dispatchers and supervisors in the field will be able to determine where units are located within the city, as these units respond to calls in real time. This will lower response times for all public safety units.

• Staff can compile and publish frequently used statistical reports without the assistance of technical staff and without the need to access multiple databases.

• Units can write and file incident reports in the field. 

• The CAD/RMS will be available to their users at least 99.99 percent of the time, on a

24/7/365 basis, within six months of implementation.

• Increased safety to units as more information will be available directly within the vehicles.

• Accurate data conversion of selected data ranges and fields.

• Use mapping capabilities within CAD system.

• Technical architecture will comply with current Casa Grande standards.

• Provide ability to analyze public safety incidents for commonalities, trends, and patterns.

After proposals have been received and evaluated, the best qualified one will go before the City Council in September.

"For planning purposes," the request says, "the city Of Casa Grande has identified a total installation timeframe spanning up to 24 months from the date of City Council authorization and execution of the contract for successful completion of the system implementation activities, no later than Oct. 31, 2016."

The communications center, with expansion of work areas and modernization of the building almost complete, is located in the old Police Department building on Marshall Street south of Florence Boulevard.


Description

The Police Department's website and part of the request give this description of the Public Safety Communications Division:

The Public Safety Communications of the Police Department provides the personnel that link the public with the sworn officers in the field. The division has 15 public safety clerk positions whose functions include 911 operator, public safety dispatcher, records clerk, receptionists, secretary, and supervisor. Public Safety Communications is currently under the command of Mike Brashier.

Civilian personnel are most often the first line of communications with the general public, whether handling “walk in” citizens requests for service or answering 911 emergency calls for both the Police Department and Fire Department. 

Civilian employees classify and prioritize the calls for service, dispatch officers as needed, record dispositions of calls, then handle the follow up paper work. The followup work consists of data entry into the department’s computer system, filing of reports, and transferring reports to related agencies and entities such as prosecutors, courts, and insurance companies.

Public safety dispatchers (911 operators) attend to incoming calls on eight phone lines, 10 911 lines, four extensions and one Silent Witness line. 

They must also enter all calls for service into the police computer to dispatch the calls. Other duties include fulfilling records requests, processing and filing incoming paperwork, data entry of all citations and police reports into the computer system, criminal history inquiries in the state’s crime computer, submitting fingerprints through the state’s automated fingerprint identification system, and numerous other tasks to keep the internal operation of the department organized and efficient.

Supervisors in the division perform as “working supervisors,” doing one of the above jobs in addition to assisting with scheduling, completing employee evaluations, supervising civilian employees, and completing projects assigned by the commander.

When not assigned as a 911 operator or public safety dispatcher, the public safety clerks function as records clerks assisting in the records duties. 

These duties include forwarding reports to other criminal justice agencies, preparing statistical information, uniform crime reporting to the state and FBI, and other secretarial duties for the chief of police and his three division commanders.

State lands firefighting agreement renewed

(Posted March 18, 2014)


The reimbursement rates are HERE


The agreement with the Arizona State Land Department to reimburse Casa Grande and the Fire Department for time and equipment to help fight fires on state lands and during natural disasters has been renewed.

Approval was given by the City Council during Monday night's meeting.

The two-year contract replaces one that expires March 31.

"State Land establishes the standardized rates for equipment only," the staff report says. "They pay our actual cost of personnel plus employee related expenses, including backfill. This can be at either the straight or overtime rate. All fire fighting vehicles are charged by the hour for their use and a command vehicle is charged by the day, plus mileage. 

"This agreement provides the reimbursement mechanism for wildland deployments and other natural disasters such as flooding where mutual aid is provided for extended operating periods. This agreement is also required for any Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reimbursement for local disaster recovery cost associated with mitigation and recovery.

"Revenues collected through this established rate agreement will cover our actual cost of wages, training and equipping the wildland team."


O'Neil/Trekell traffic signal goes active today

(Posted March 17, 2014)


The city issued this announcement today:


The 4-way traffic signal at the intersection of Trekell Road and O’Neil Drive is expected to be fully operational on Tuesday, March 18. 

Please slow down and watch for pedestrians in the crosswalk.


The question: If a $30,000 truck has done well,
why replace it with one costing twice as much?

(Posted March 17, 2014)


You'll find the staff report HERE


If you have a $30,000 Sanitation Division truck that has lasted for 15 years, now with 92,903 miles on it, why would you want to spend more than twice as much to replace it with a more expensive vehicle?

That was the question Monday night before the City Council.

The request was that the present vehicle, a Dodge Ram 35000, be replaced by a 2015 Freightliner chassis equipped with an existing fork lift body. That would cost $73,770, which the staff report says is a 33 percent reduction from the list price.

"Specifications for this vehicle include the necessary options as required for safe and serviceable operation for our Sanitation Division," the report says. "Included are the government mandated emission technology for near zero emissions; heavy-duty batteries and charging system; heavy-duty upgraded driveline & skid protection; anti-lock braking system; front engine power take off; and upgraded rear tires. This will not only insure a longer useful life span, but add to the value of the vehicle when replaced after its life cycle is complete. The cab and chassis, engine and transmission unit are covered under a 2 year standard warranty."

As Deputy Public Works Director Greg Smith put it during his presentation to the council, "We use this to deliver our front end trash containers for various commercial accounts and we also use it to deliver some of our larger containers. It's met its requirements for replacement so we're asking to move forward. We're going with a more robust chassis which will allow us to move large pieces of equipment and it will be easier on everybody."

Councilman Matt Herman had reservations.

"Going from a Dodge 3500 to a  Freightliner, that's quite a big jump up," he said. "And looking at the numbers here, the old Dodge is a 1999, has almost a hundred thousand miles. It's a 15-year-old truck, seems like it's been serving us well. A $30,000 truck compared to the $73,000 truck. I don't see the need."

It's basically the heavier construction, Smith replied.

"Right now, our piece of equipment is undersized compared to the industry standards for doing this kind of work," he continued. "We keep pushing it, we've been lucky. As we continue to grow, as we get more containers, larger containers, things like that, we believe it's really an appropriate investment."

Herman asked if there have been safety issues or problems with the present truck.

"I can't tell you that," Smith answered. "I didn't really look into that."

Councilman Dick Powell asked if there are now some large trash containers that crews are having trouble handling with the present vehicle or if it is anticipated that more large ones will be purchased.

Smith responded that, "As we grow, we'll probably be bringing in more. The guys have been saying that the one we have, it's pushing them as they try to do their rounds, it's hard for them to get the equipment out. Again, per the industry standards, this particular body is more in line with what the industry standards are for this kind of work."

Mayor Bob Jackson remarked that, "If you do the math, it's a huge jump in the price."

Herman said he would like more information about the proposed purchase, especially if it will really be needed, given that there is now competition from private trash haulers.

"From a business standpoint," he said, "a 15-year-old truck and I've not heard any problems with it before. A $30,000 vehicle and now we've got to buy a $73,000 truck. I just question that in the budget, how we spend over twice as much."

City Manager Jim Thompson said the request could be table until more detailed information is brought back to the council.

Jackson said part of that information could be maintenance records. If they show that the city is spending large amounts of money to maintain the present vehicle, that would change the picture.

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons said she would like that information to include how many cities in the state are using the newer equipment and how many are using older vehicles.

Jackson suggested also surveying private trash collectors to see what type of vehicles they use.

In moving to table the issue, Powell said, "It's not a huge amount of money, but it's double what we spent before, so I think we do need to ask the questions and determine, go from there."

The vote to table was unanimous.

In other action Monday night, the council approved a right of way easement with Sundance1. An agenda item on resubdividing Arroyo Grande was removed from the agenda before the meeting began. That was to be discussed in the private executive session following the meeting.


Pavement resurfacing for three subdivisions 
now under way; other areas, roads to come

(Posted March 14, 2014)


Work on resurfacing streets in three Casa Grande subdivision begins Monday, March 17, with work in other areas authorized but yet to be scheduled.

The work is in McCartney Center subdivision Monday through Friday, March 21. Between March 24-April 1 the street work will be done in Village subdivision, followed by Mission Royale from April 21-25.

"Construction crews will be working from 7 a.m.-5:00 p.m.," the city announcement said. "While work is under way, there will be lane restrictions, but one lane will remain open in each direction at all times. Access to businesses will be maintained and advance notification will be given. Motorists are advised to please obey all traffic signs and slow down in construction zones. Thanks for your patience."

Not yet scheduled is resurfacing in the Meyers Homesites, Sierra Ranch and Rancho Palo Verde subdivisions.

Work not yet scheduled on streets includes Arizola Road from Cottonwood Lane south to East Penny Lane, Hacienda Road from Kortsen Road to Florence Boulevard, Cottonwood Lane from Interstate 10 to Overfield Road, Kortsen Road from Hacienda Road to Signal Peak Road, Overfield Road north from Florence Boulevard to the city limits, Selma Highway from South Mitchell Road to North Toltec Buttes Road, and West Peters Road from South Chuichu Road to the city limits.

The work is part of annual maintenance program on the city's 409 miles of streets.

In asking during the last City Council for approval of two contracts totaling $1,297,087, Public Works Director Kevin Louis said, "These are pavement segments that are deteriorating at a rapid pace and don’t necessarily match the data that we got from our pavement management system. This is not unusual. We’re in the first five years of our pavement management system, this is just one of those anomalies that we came across. 

"The majority of the roads we’re looking at are rural roads that were part of our recent annexations and they are deteriorating at a faster rate and we need to do something now. Otherwise, we’re going to end up spending a lot more money."

Councilman Matt Herman said he had had comments from residents asking why the city was spending more than a million dollars for street work.

"I say this is one of our biggest assets," Herman said, noting that a presentation on the annual financial report showed total valuation of city property at about $300 million. Louis later told CG News that the original value of streets in the city was $204 million. With normal depreciation, he said, the value is about $120 million.

As Herman sees it, "We have to maintain this stuff because it’s going to cost us a lot more in the long run. I know it’s a lot of money to spend, but we need to maintain our roads."

Herman also asked why those rural area roads are deteriorating. "Do we know the type of traffic?" he asked. "Is it heavy trucks?"

Louis responded that, "I think typically what you see in the rural areas, unincorporated Pinal County, those roadways were developed at a different standard. They’re not developed at an urban level standard, they weren’t developed to handle truck traffic and those types of things.

If you go out there on any given day, the amount of traffic traveling across these roads has really increased.

"Typically, a pavement is a double chip seal and then they build on top of that. This (deterioration) is a typical reaction when these roads get to a certain age.

"Our deterioration curve that we have in our system puts it about a 10-year downslide and these are dropping just much more drastically. So we're just having to react and not having the chance to be as proactive as we want to be on these particular roads."

Councilman Karl Montoya, noting that the Public Works Department has a computerized pavement management system, yet the deterioration was described by Louis as an anomaly.

"A $1.3 million anomaly," Montoya said. "How much of it (maintenance) was kind of scheduled and how much was kind of like out of the blue?"

Louis said Public Works is in the process of developing its five-year plan for streets.

"Some of these roadways had come up as part of that plan," he said," but when you go out there and really look at the actual condition and you track our work orders where we're doing our patching out there, it didn't match the pavement condition indexes that were being developed out of our pavement management system. 

"I don't know if when we did the original data collection we got bad data. It's very hard to tell. Sometimes you can have a great subgrade and your pavement is just terrible, otherwise vice versa."

Given that, Montoya asked how much Public Works could rely on the pavement management system.

"That is a great tool," he said, "but, I mean, do we look for more anomalies coming out of it, I guess is what I'm looking at. I'm sure we're getting better with it, but how comfortable are we with it now?"

Louis said the department is very comfortable with the management system.

"Each year, we're going to have better data and with better data we're going to be able to make better decisions," he said. "What the tool's really going to help us do is forecast what our spending is going to be five to 10 years out, so that we can start to look at what is that revenue stream we need to support that type of effort. Currently, our revenue streams don't support what we see five to 10 years out, so we do need to take a close look at that. We're working on that every day."

It's sort of no-win situation, Councilman Dick Powell said.

"As Matt brings out," he continued, "if you spend a lot of money, people say you're spending a lot of money, but if the streets don't get fixed people are saying why don't you spend money and fix them.

"And I think that the way we're doing it is probably as orderly and fair as we can be. I know there's going to be people that have issues that we're not going to make happy this year or maybe next."

Powell added that he does get questions from residents in the Toltec Buttes area, who "have asked over and over about that half mile yet on Hacienda, Hacienda from the south end of Early going out Arizona, about half a mile. I didn't know if there's any idea on when that might be paved. They'd be on a pavement if they could go from Arizola on in. 

"I know originally they thought Arizona was going to get earlier work and it turned out the expectation was built that that was going to be completed and it was going to be a nice way to go back and forth without having to go back across or go down Overfield or that way, either way you get on dirt."

Louis responded that, "Originally, we had looked at that section being paved as part of the I-10 widening project. And when they didn't move forward, we tried to logically come up with the piece that impacted our residents the most. And you're right, there is really no good way to get back into town from that area, it's an underserviced area, if you will.

"It's something we'll take a look at. Right now, we don't have a lot of plans to expand our system, we're just trying to maintain our system. But I think once we start to see more construction and we start to see those fund balances coming up, then we can start to look at some of those types of projects."

A year ago, Deputy Public Works Director Greg Smith told the council that to bring the condition all of Casa Grande’s streets up to maximum possible levels would cost almost $19 million.



Board of Adjustment OKs temporary at-risk
monument sign for PhoenixMart main entry

(Posted March 12, 2014)


You'll find the staff report, with drawings HERE


The developers of the 585-acre PhoenixMart project north of Florence Boulevard three miles east of Interstate 10 want to go ahead with some work on an at-risk basis pending formal approval from the city, the Board of Adjustment was told Tuesday night.

That was brought out during discussion before the 5-1 approval of a request by PhoenixMart for a temporary use permit for 60-foot-long, 10-foot-high monument sign in four sections at what will eventually be the main entrance. 

So far, a comprehensive sign plan has not been submitted. That means that the sign will be constructed at-risk. If the Planning and Zoning Commission does not approve the comprehensive plan or the city has other objections, it will have to be torn down.

According to the staff report accompanying the agenda item, "A comprehensive sign plan is required to be reviewed and approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission prior to the construction of permanent signage for the PhoenixMart. If the comprehensive sign plan allows the type of signs constructed under the temporary use permit, then these signs will be left in place and permitted as permanent signage. If the monument wall signs installed with this temporary use permit are not approved with the comprehensive sign plan they will be removed or otherwise modified to comply with the requirements of the comprehensive sign plan."

Planning and Development Director Paul Tice put it in everyday language for the board:

"If the Planning Commission in approving the comprehensive sign plan was to approve signs that differ from these, these would not be allowed to exist. They'd have to be torn down and new signs constructed that conform to whatever comprehensive sign plan the Planning Commission might approve," he said. "If you were to grant this approval, it's only good for a maximum of two years. These are at-risk signs through the temporary use permit. There's no authority for these signs to become permanent unless the comprehensive sign plan that is eventually approved allows these signs."

The long dissent vote came from board member Gordon Beck, who said he was unhappy with the size of the sign and was uncomfortable approving something that has not already been approved by the Planning Commission.

Senior Planner Leila Demaree told the board that PhoenixMart has submitted an application for a major site plan, or final development plan, which is now being revised. It has also submitted an application for a preliminary plat for the entire 585-acre site, now also being revised.

"It will take time," Demaree said. "It will require a little more time to put all those revisions together, especially that they are required to submit a traffic impact analysis to be approved by the Arizona Department of Transportation, as well as our traffic engineer for the city."

Brad Holyoak, a PhoenixMart representative who said his role is to manage the construction of the project and some of the development, outlined past problems and where the company wants to go from here.

"As you know, we've experienced some challenges in rolling out our project," he said. "And admittedly, many of those challenges are self-induced challenges.

"We're at a point now where our intention is to come to staff in the month of May with a building permit application that allows us to move forward on a full-scale building permit with our project.

"So given that, we have tried to identify several components of the project, the overall project, that we can approach prior to having that permit, admittedly on a fully at-risk basis."

PhoenixMart wants the monument sign now, Holyoak said, both to make the area attractive and to identify the location for the public and project investors.

"The lowest hanging fruit, I want to say, that makes the most sense for us is to go ahead and attempt to put in this front entryway that will provide the ultimate gateway to the project," he said. "While we are coming at it from a temporary use permit perspective, our intent is that this design and this installation ultimately be our permanent entry and signage and landscape design.

"So our intent, although temporary, is to move forward and complete our comprehensive sign plan, as well as a final landscape plan," he continued. "The landscaping will also be at-risk, and we understand that, until we have a landscape plan.

"Our intention is to develop both of those documents so that the signage and the landscape that we put in place here is ultimately the final entry landscape and signage design that will be there long term for the project."

With approval of the temporary use permit, Holyoak said, "we will come back to the city with an at-risk grading plan at the end of this week that will allow us to start grading the dirt (for the sign). The following week, we'll come back with a building permit that will allow us to build, at-risk, the signage and the landscape, provide for that installation and all of the retention and necessary dirt work that needs to happen there. There's probably a couple of weeks worth of grading that needs to happen on site, followed by two or three more weeks of installation of signage and landscape."

During that time, Holyoak continued, "what we would ultimately like to do, as we have discussed with your planning staff and with Public Works, is to identify other portions of the project that we can also begin in an at-risk fashion. 

"That primarily means the mass grading, some of the roads and some of the building sites, that we could reasonably begin that work on as an at-risk part of the project. We'll come back with an additional grading and drainage plans for staff and the Public Works Department to approve.

"We would like to proceed with that work ultimately while the building permit is being considered and reviewed between May and hopefully some time this summer, when at that point we would anticipate having a full building permit and be able to move forward with the installation of all the infrastructure, the final work on the roadways, the pad work under the main part of the mart and then the building itself.

"So our plan really at this point is once we receive permission to move forward this temporary use permit and begin this work, our goal is that work will continuously be happening on site until the project is complete next year. That's our ultimate goal."

Board member Chuck Wright pointed out that Mayor Bob Jackson has spoken of a March start date, yet Holyoak was now talking about May.

"I appreciate the question and I understand the reason for that," Holyoak responded. 

"I don't mean to imply that anybody has misled the mayor. Our intention has always been to get to a permit as early as possible. As I've said, we've had some missteps and some stumbles and some challenges, some that are our fault and some that just arise in the course of business that have led us to revise and rework some of our plans. 

"So, we have discussed that with the mayor and I have apologized personally, as have a number of people on our staff. The information that he had provided to the public has been information provided to him by us and on several occasions we have not been able to meet those expectations."

A man in the audience asked if the monument sign with five-foot-high lettering would be brightly lighted, making it a hazard to night vision along that dark section of highway.

"A final lighting plan has not been designed or approved," Holyoak answered. "The intention is for these signs to be lit, the intention is for the letters themselves to be internally lit. They will be opaque in nature so the light will be relatively subdued. We have not considered the time period the lighting will be on or off. I don't think it will be any brighter than any of the other subdivisions in their entryways."

The final vote was 5-1 for approval, with Beck dissenting. Board member Harold Vangilder had an excused absence.


Library, comm center renovations almost done

(Posted March 12, 2014)


Work on the downtown library expansion and renovating the old Police Department building into a larger communications/dispatching center is almost completed, Mayor Bob Jackson said during his State of the City address last Thursday at The Property Conference Center.

"We're about 30 days away from finishing the expansion to the downtown library and to our dispatch center," he said. "Those are both projects that were made possible through a bond issue approved by the citizens about six or seven years ago. We were able to save money on some of our projects to be able to do these.

"If you've been in the main library, it is busy all the time. I had the opportunity to go look at the expansion. It's going to look really nice when we're done. We are changing the entrance, too, so if you're used to going in on the east side of the building it will be a new location. So,  be surprised."

When the Public Safety Facility was opened on Val Vista Boulevard, the old police building on Marshall Street south of Florence Boulevard was designated to remain as a communications/dispatching center.

"Dispatch is, I think, is one of the unsung heroes of the Police Department," Jackson said.

"Their work environment was cramped in a corner of the old station. The new facility is very, very nice. More spread out, gives them areas they can work. And if you have ever have a need to call the dispatcher, you'd be really glad that they're in a nice work environment and they're happy. They do a great job."